Saturday, March 21, 2020

Walking on the Water

You may be familiar with the passage in Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water. Peter was scared at first, but then in a bold moment asks to walk on the water with Jesus. At first he succeeds, then he starts to sink. Pastor Brett Meador gave a good reminder that "The waves that are rolling over your head are the same waves that are under his feet."

The Bible tells us not to forsake the gathering together with believers. We may be at home, but we can still gather virtually with thousands of other believers and Jesus is still in our midst.

It is hard not to buy into the panic when you are at the store and see the empty shelves. It is hard to stay calm when the media is freaking out. When you see all the rising statistics posts, it's hard to keep your heart from skipping a beat.

Peter was in a boatload of panic. The waves were tossing the boat around and everyone was scared, and rightly so. Jesus came into their presence and calm ensued. Peter took steps in his new-found bravery and was confidently walking on the waves. Then he got distracted and began to falter. Jesus again lent his calm to Peter, reached down and pulled him from his panic.

My mom used to say, "Trust God and fasten your seat belt." That means, you do what you can (social isolation, eating right, exercise, plenty of fluids, keeping a positive outlook) and trust that God has the best in mind for you, even if HIS best isn't YOUR best.

Don't let Satan steal your peace. Don't let isolation make you scared. Don't let the distractions take your eyes off the Father. Remember Jesus is our salvation, and in Him we can rejoice, even in the midst of panic.

Some additional thoughts from Mark McCrary about churches cancelling services because of the Coronavirus:

1) This is not a Hebrews 10:25 matter. This passage speaks of not forsaking the assembly, but the word for "forsake" is exactly that-- a leaving behind or walking away from. It means to abandon. That is not the case here. If someone is sick, we do not say-- at least most of us don't say-- they have "forsaken the assembly." I fear we have taken a rather two-dimensional approach to this command.

2) This is not an issue of government oppression. On Wednesday, our governor (Kentucky) asked churches to forgo assembling this weekend. Some Christians seemed to suggest this was some form of persecution. But as one of our elders said, "This is not a 42nd cousin of the government persecution of the 2nd or 3rd centuries." Our federal, state and local governments have an obligation to protect the well-being of its citizens. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Last Wednesday, about 1300 Americans had contracted the virus. As of today, that number has almost doubled-- 2572. That's in 4 days. Last week Italy had 600 cases; today they have 21,000, and 200 people dying a day. This isn't government oppression. It is the government trying to protect its citizens. They are asking us to help.

3) This is not a matter of people living in fear or not trusting in the Lord. I’ve seen those statements, and they sound good until one spends a minute or two thinking about them. Are you afraid or untrusting if you take blood pressure meds? Insulin? Cholesterol meds? Go to the doctor? Have a life-saving surgery? If not, then why are Christians who choose to avoid crowds because the medical profession has urged us to do so (in order to contain this virus) living in fear or failing to trust? If you started to leave your house on Sunday morning to go to church and saw a tornado outside in the direction of the building, would you still get in your car and drive toward the tornado, or run to safety? Now, if you would not do these things (take medicine, go to the doctor, run to safety, etc.), then you have every right to judge others. But, I suspect most would not think twice about any of these things. So, let’s not be so quick to judge others by standards that really fall apart when we think about them just a little.

4) Finally, let’s be careful about self-righteousness. I’ve seen more than a few comment to the tune of, “Well, ok, you stay home, but I’m going to obey God….” Implication: if you stay home, you don't love the Lord as much as I do. Self-righteousness is a nasty sin, and does not reflect well on a follower of Christ.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Kids Home Unexpectedly?

Copied from a homeschool group. It's a long read, but a good one! 

Oh, and one thought from me: homeschool doesn't look like traditional school at home. Focus on the basics, especially if you're new to this: read aloud, some fun math games, writing a letter or journal entry. Have fun with it.


Friends, I suspect the reason why you’re dreading having your kids home for the forseeable future is because you give them 110% of your time, attention, and energy when you all are home together. You are dreading having them home with no breaks, because you just don’t have that kind of time, attention, and energy to give 24/7. And that’s okay! Additionally, kids are noisy, dramatic, often unreasonable, create chaos and clutter everywhere they go, and wreak havoc on plans and schedules. This can be super stressful for parents. Now add in the schooling part?!

The problem: that 110% attention, time, and energy given to your kids at home isn’t compatible with your needs. Their noise, clutter, commotion, and disruption of plans can stress YOUR sensory systems. The good news: they don’t NEED all that time and attention from you to feel loved and to do well.

Also, boredom is okay. It helps kids learn to try new things and use problem-solving skills.

Everyone has different levels of introversion and extraversion, and different levels of sensory tolerance. Take some time to observe yourself, your partner, and your kids.
•How much noise can you handle?
•How much clutter?
•How much touching?
•How much interaction?
•Does interaction drain you?
•How much down time do you usually need?
•Do you feel like it’s never enough?
•Are you good after a few minutes?
•What about your spouse or kids?

How do you recharge? I think most parents dreading kids home 24/7 for weeks have some needs not being met at home. Getting angry or frustrated is a natural response to the hard parts of parenting. It shows that you have an UNMET NEED, often for a recharge.

Home is for you, too. Don’t feel guilty about needing your space or your quiet. Don’t feel guilty about needing to go call a friend for the social interaction we aren’t getting (thanks, social distancing!). If you can parent and work with your spouse from a place of rest, recharged, your tolerance levels will be much better than when you are exhausted and depleted. The same for your other family members. Compromise is key, and trying to understand the extrovert or introvert needs of your family can help you all stay recharged and more tolerant of each other.

Changing your routine and way of doing things is never easy, but here are a few ideas that might get you started in the best direction for your family.

✓ Accept your needs and your family’s needs. You are the way you are for a reason. Taking the correct break for you, will make you all more able to be the best “you” possible.

✓ Create a routine. It doesn’t have to be a minute-by-minute schedule, just a “parade of daily events” that can help give consistency and boundaries. Don’t try to replicate a classroom school day, even if your kids are skyping into school or doing online classes.

✓ Make some space for rest. Maybe quiet time with an audiobook or independent reading for an hour. Extroverted kids might want to pair up and sit together for a quiet activity. Introverted kids might need their own space away from everyone else.

✓ Think about earlier bedtimes. Kids tend to wake up early anyway. Let them get some more rest, and give yourself some more time at night to relax.

✓ First thing in the morning, ask your kids to come say good morning and give them a long, 1-2 min hug (or until they pull away themselves). No one has been “touched out" yet, and everyone will feel loved and loving first thing.

✓ Take some time for your needs. No thinking about what needs to be done, who needs what, how the schedule needs to change, etc. Step outside, take some deep breaths, and enjoy the fresh air. Go to your room and really savor a piece of chocolate. Make some tea or coffee, then sit and drink it, no rush. Take a nap, a bath, or a long shower. Go for a walk, a run, or do a workout. Listen to a song that makes you happy. Take 5 min to do yoga or meditate. Practice some mindfulness exercises or pray. Skype or Facetime with a friend. Create something and share it. Call a friend and do something together, over the phone.

✓ Introverts can simply sit and listen to an extrovert who needs to vent. Extroverts can respect that an introvert needs alone time, and remind themselves that alone time helps an introvert process things better.

✓ Arguments and meltdowns might mean someone needs more alone time than they are getting.

✓ Everyone doesn’t have to be happy all the time. Life has inevitable ups and downs, and it’s okay to process them according to your temperament. Just look for hope, forgive yourself and others when things don’t go right, and try again tomorrow. Try to find the humor in each day.

It takes time to figure out being home all the time with everyone. Be patient, focus on figuring out how you all work together and what needs you have for being apart. Put those relationship goals above the to-do lists. Give it time, slow down, and change things that aren’t working. Your kids can, and will learn from home. This quarantine/social distancing could be a wonderful opportunity for you and your family. There are tons of good resources out there and a lot of homeschooling communities who are happy to help during this time.

A word of caution: please remember many homeschoolers have been often questioned and ridiculed about their decision to school from home. Don't get defensive, but instead try to be understanding and respectful of their experience and advice.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Feeling Alone?

Recently a friend wrote to me after reading my post about not fitting in. I have her permission to share our correspondence with you. I am pretty sure you'll be able to relate to her in some way. Hopefully you will be encouraged by our correspondence. 

Dear Vinae,

Why is it so hard to fit in with other Christians? Why is it so hard to make relationships? I feel like making friends is almost impossible in your 30’s. I’m tired, they're tired, everyone is busy and tired. I’m not too tired to spend one hour scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, looking at everyone’s Photoshop pictures, but I’m too tired to invite a neighbor over for cheap hot dogs and fellowship. 

I join groups and meet new people, we add each other on Facebook, but that is the extent of the relationship. We meet, we have a lot in common, and then we get busy with life and it’s the end. Well, we are still looking at each other’s Facebook page, commenting on photos or snap chatting, but really we are not engaged. 

I just wrote off a longtime friend of over 10 years. She lives a few hours away from me. I have traveled hours to her house to support her in fundraisers, graduations, and many other occasions. It was inconvenient, but I do these things for her all the time. Last week she told me multiple times that she was coming to my child's birthday party. We made it through the party and I realized she didn’t even show up. I was angry. I think the real issue was that quite a few people cancelled, many the day of, and several didn’t even tell me they weren't going to make it, and she was one of those along with some family members. 

How do we recover from hurt feelings when we have made an effort in someone’s life and it is not reciprocated? How do we keep from shutting down and becoming isolated? I know God is the answer, but isn’t there anyone out there that we can rely on? It’s an imperfect world yes, but should it really be this bad? I have family and a “best friend” who told me they would be at my kid’s special celebration and they can’t even tell me they are not going to make it. I would tell a stranger I wasn’t coming if I had made a prior commitment, let alone someone in my family or best friend. Has responsibility just been thrown out the window? 

How do we keep these doubts and let downs from seeping in and separating us from God? (I guess I’m still equating God’s love to affection and love from others.) But, isn’t it reasonable to expect these things if we are following God and trying to live Godly lives? Should we live isolated lives or are we meant for fellowship? This is question I struggle with. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have Christian friends in our age group that will just get together and pledge to love one another no matter what? Do life together, call, not text, but call just to say, Hey how is your day going? Friends that care about kid’s birthdays and life events? 

Hi Friend,
You know, you are not at all alone in what you are saying. I’ve had the same thoughts – why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? Why are relationships fed only through social media until they all they consist of is how many “likes” you give the other person? When did it become so easy to feel isolated in a world that is full of texts and chats and messages?

You hit on a key point – it’s easier to spend hours mindlessly scrolling online than it is to be intentional about meeting with a  friend for an hour. It’s all about where we are investing our lives. Are you purposing to do things that fill you and revive you, or just self-medicating by vegging and coming away from it just as empty as you went in? This is a question I have to ask myself many times every day. Is what I am doing going to renew me?  If not, I should probably stop.

Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are fun ways of keeping in contact with someone, but unless thought and intention is put into the connections, they become just another virtual friend. What we’ve lost in our world is REAL communication – face to face interaction that breathes life into the other person.

It is so easy to write off people when they constantly hurt you. I have a few friends who I have reached out to over the years but never get anything back from them, so, while I haven’t exactly written them off, I HAVE backed off. I only send a message every once in a while, and don’t wait with baited breath until they respond. While it hurts that they don’t respond, I’ve learned that I can’t depend on their response to make me feel good. I had a good friend send me a scathing message about how I never reach out to her, even though I have usually been the one who tries to keep in contact. The words hurt. But I also know that Satan can use the hurts that I have to make me bitter and wallow in them. My identity is not in how my friend thinks of me or my relationship with her. My identity is tied to my relationship with God. When I am trying to be a friend with God, making him a priority in my life, the brush offs from others don’t hurt quite as much. Oh, to be sure, it still hurts, just not quite as much as it did when I made them the source of my feeling good about myself.

I know you were hurt by your friend, but you even admitted that she wasn’t the only problem. She was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s hard not to become cynical when people hurt you, and even more when it comes to your kids. I know. I have felt that my kids have been completely ignored by some of their relatives. It breaks my heart for my kids that they are missing out on that family connection. Actually, that is a wrong statement. My kids are not hurt by not getting a card from their cousins, I am hurt by that. My kids don’t know any different. But because I make a concerted effort to remember relatives' birthdays, I am hurt when the effort is not reciprocated. I am the one who feels forgotten and neglected.

As you know, we have moved around a bit in the last few years. When we moved to Portland, it took a really long time for me to make friends, and just as I felt I was making true friendships, we moved to California. I was extremely depressed because I knew how much investment it takes to make deep friendships, so I prayed. God brought into my life two ladies who I keep in close contact with, yes, through Facebook, but also through notes in the mail and messaging. Whenever I get a chance to see them, I make the effort to. 

So when we moved here, I really prayed, and asked my friends to pray, for God to bring into my life women who I could make a real connection with. It’s been three years, but I feel those connections are finally being made. It takes time, it takes effort. And if someone isn’t willing to invest the effort back, I have to give that up and look elsewhere. It really is up to ME to be willing to be vulnerable enough to let someone into my life to develop that deep, meaningful relationship that I long for in another woman. It's scary to open up and be vulnerable enough to risk being rejected. And it’s hard and time consuming and takes a lot of emotional energy; I want to protect myself and so having shallow conversations is easier. But it is worth it…IF I invest. And it really is an investment. 

The same goes with God. I didn’t realize until recently that I haven’t really made any kind of time it requires to make that relationship happen. It requires sacrifice – a sacrifice of time, a sacrifice of sleep, a sacrifice of me wanting to just veg, a sacrifice of my pride and a sacrifice of my desire to fill the longings of my flesh.

You asked how do we keep the doubts and let downs from separating us from God? I think a more accurate question is: How do we disassociate those doubts and let downs from God’s character?  The answer is by making God your friend. Spending un-hurried time with him, reading the Bible, and praying. I know. It sounds so cliché. I’ve heard that all my life - yet I never took it to heart and actually did those things until recently. Do I spend quality time with God every day? No, but I do try to make an effort. I’ve asked him to give me promptings to seek him. When I am in my bathroom, I often feel a tug to go into my closet and pray. It is often only for a few minutes, and often I am not actually praying, but just silent before Him. I’ve started trying to recite Psalms of praise in my prayers, but often I just end up repeating the same thing over and over.

If we are following God and trying our best to live a Godly life, isn’t it reasonable we should expect kindness and courtesy from others? I paraphrased your question, but I’m not sure that the answer is yes. Humans are sinful. They are always going to let you down. Always. I’ve come to the conclusion that while I am here on earth, I will always have a longing in my heart for something more. And I think that God put that longing in us so that we would long to be with him, to get to know him more. As I have been spending more quality time with God, spending more time in the Word and praying, a little bit of that longing has been filled. Not all... I don’t expect that it will ever be gone until I reach heaven. But that is where my hope comes from. I know that I am never going to belong or fit in while I am alive. There will always be that longing for more, and the tension that comes with that is a good tension. It reminds me daily to be in connection with the only one who will eventually be able to fill that longing.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Nourishing Hot Cocoa

When it gets cold out, I like to have a hot drink with me all day long.

I discovered I could add things to my hot chocolate that made it nutritious as well as delicious. The collagen helps my joints and skin stay healthy. Molasses has potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, B6, copper, and many more vitamins and minerals. Cocoa powder has magnesium, iron, fiber and flavonoids. The sea salt adds needed electrolytes. Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory, and honey has many healing properties.

Did you know that your hot chocolate could provide so many good things for your body?

Nourishing Hot Cocoa

1 or 2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp molasses
1-2 tsp honey
1 squirt Sweet Leaf Chocolate Stevia (or any type of stevia)
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of sea salt
drop of peppermint

Pour in hot water, stir well, and top off with almond milk for even more nutrients!

If it is not sweet enough for me, I will add some maple syrup, which adds calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and more minerals.  You can also add coconut oil or butter to help balance the protein and carbohydrates.

How I make my hot cocoa

What do you like to add to your hot cocoa that helps fuel your body?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Purposeful Mornings

I am NOT a morning person, I am most certainly a night owl. I get motivated to do things around 10 pm, just in time for bed. This wasn’t a problem when I was single. Now that I’m married and my husband likes it when we go to bed at the same time, and I have three kids who have their own ideas about mornings, I really can’t stay up late anymore.

I used to wake up whenever the kids did. When they were pre-schoolers, they thought that 6:00 am was a great time to start the day. I did not. When my oldest started waking up at 5:00 am, I said, No Way, and taught him how to play quietly until six. When we moved to Kentucky, for some reason, all three kids started sleeping until 7:00 am or later! It was a miracle! I could finally sleep in every morning and get my full 8-9 hours of sleep. Let me tell you, I took advantage of that.

I have always heard: wake up before your kids and read your Bible to start your day off right. I made every single excuse I could think of as to why that was wrong: my kid isn't sleeping through the night, I need a full 8-9 hours of sleep, I can't concentrate when the kids are in the room with me, I need to have quiet time, I can't concentrate early in the morning. I am sure there are more excuses, but the thing is, they were just excuses.

About a year ago, someone told me about spending purposeful time with God every day. That made a huge difference in how I perceived what my "quiet time" with God was supposed to look like. She said that it didn't matter if my kids were up, or if they were interrupting me, or if it was noisy. It didn't have to be perfect; I had to let go of the ideal that my quiet time would be, well, quiet. I also had to let go of whatever romantic image I had in my head of what a quiet time might look like. What mattered is that I purposed to spend TIME with God. I could let the kids participate, or I could let them play quietly around me, or I could let them know that I needed time with God and they would have to wait for a little bit on whatever it was they wanted me to do. So, I started doing that instead of waking up early. It sounded like a great compromise. The problem was, I wasn't very consistent because I would get distracted so easily.

When I started exercising again, my coach urged me to try to wake up before my kids. She gets up at 5:00 every day. I thought that was ridiculous. So I started getting up at 6:40, ten minutes after my husband, to give him time in the bathroom before I went in. Well, that gave me enough time to get dressed before my kids woke up, but that was about it. The problem was, I’d just go downstairs and get a coffee and the kids would be down.

My coach again urged me to wake up earlier for the rest of the three week challenge I was participating in. I figured, it’s only two more weeks, surely I can handle 6:00 am for two weeks. I set my alarm so it was silent, and my watch would vibrate to wake me up. That first day? It was harsh, I’m telling you. I did NOT want to do it, but I knew she'd ask if I got up early, so I did it. That accountability started a new phase in my life. I was absolutely positive, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could never change from a night owl to an early bird. Now, I have been waking up at 6:00 am for about three months...and I love it. Say WHAT??? Yeah. This gal never though she would say that.

Here's what I get when I wake up an hour before my kids: I get some quiet time in the morning to collect my thought, I get a HOT cup of coffee, I get in purposeful time with God that is uninterrupted, I get in some work in before my kids need my attention, and I get my workout in. The best part of all is that I get a morning where I don't feel rushed and already behind.

Are your mornings rushed and frantic? Or do you have a purposeful start to your morning that sets the tone for the rest of the day?
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Have you always been that way or did you have to train yourself?

If you are a night owl, like I was, do you wish you could be an early bird? Do you think it's hopeless? I am here to tell you that you CAN change - IF you commit. It takes discipline and dedication. It helps if you have someone to hold you accountable, like I did. What do you have to lose?