Preparing for Dedication

The fall and winter is usually when Paul and I travel the most for work.  He is a graphic designer by day, but plays guitar in a band at night.  That really is a side project and he isn't gone all the time doing it, but he travels and practices and takes time to write so it still takes up his time and energy.  I travel when I speak at conferences and retreats and have been writing a lot more these days.   He will be gone 1-2 weekends per month and I will be gone 1-2 per month.  We always make sure we are home as a whole family at least one weekend a month together for these winter months of crazy.

People always say that it sounds incredibly hard and busy.  We understand it is a bit busier than usual, but really, how we approach it makes all the difference.  We try very hard to look at our priorities and make room only for the things we won't compromise on, faith, family, fun and structure.  We withdraw from everything else during those times to protect our family.  We don't schedule dinners, parties, classes, or kickball or extra circular activities.  We take the things we usually do and replace then with travel.  So during the week, we don't do anything else.  Whenever we are home, spending time together as a married couple and family is our top priority.  That's probably why people think we are so busy, because we are either traveling or hiding for months, and then in the spring, we come out to play.

Paul and I both feel called to our family, our marriage and to our ministries.  We in no way want one of these aspects of our life to allow the other to suffer.  And we deeply believe that if God has called to us these aspects of our life, then if we seek him continuously and ask for his guidance he will provide a way.  So we pray and talk and schedule and find a way for each of these aspects of our heart and lives to empower the other, not destroy it.  We want healthy rhythms and routine for the kids.  We want and need time together to keep our marriage strong.  We see how our whole family flourishes in our regular life schedule of slower paced living.

I have learned how to prepare for this season of our lives each year. On New Year's we open our schedule and we look over the next six months.  We discuss priorities, time as a family, what we will cut out of the schedule and what we need to keep to stay healthy.  We discuss sitters, schedules, merchandise, food, family chores, the whole bit.  So I have learned how to prepare the house.  Get things in order.  I have learned to love friends through emails and phone calls while being in the airport since I don't see much of them.  I have learned to make lists of financial items that need to be taken care of during the week when I am home.  I have not mastered the birthday thing and remembering and sending cards.  I am horrible at that, and not sure its in my DNA to be that girl that will send you a card to arrive on your actual birthday.  That just seems way too hard.  I have though learned how to organize multiple sitters and a network of people to take care of the kids.  (And this is just all the house/family stuff, I didn't list all the business arrangements that need to take place, writing and preparing speeches, and ordering and organizing merchandise to sell.  Preparation in of itself is a part time job.)

The last two years I have needed to include food preparation into this list which is an enormous task.  I can't leave money for the sitter to buy pizza or McDonald's   I can't let Paul make the kids PB&J for lunch.  I need lists of the "DO NOT EAT" foods.  Lists of the "APPROPRIATE SNACKS".  Most of the time, I need all  the food prepared so that our friends and family watching the kids feel comfortable and confident in their ability to love them and take care of them.  I want to bless them as much of a stress free weekend as I can.  So that now includes lists and lists of food, days of cooking and freezing food, and organizing the menu and vitamins that each kid takes.  Then I think about myself.  What am I going to eat?  I usually take some hard boiled eggs, Larabars, apples and almonds and scones.  I am happy to eat salad for the weekend and know that usually in the green room are veggies and fruit.

But on Thursday what I wasn't expecting and totally forgot was that Paul was now on our diet.  It was Thursday morning and Little and I came home from dropping the boys off at school.  We were going to paint nails, read books and play a game while we waited for the new stove to arrive. (which it didn't and we are hoping comes Monday!)  But then my mind drifted to the fact that Paul was going to be leaving for his Chicago weekend gig at 5am the next morning.  He would be gone all weekend.  Then it hit me, what's he going to eat?  Oh shoot!  So I looked at Little and we struck a deal.  Cook one thing for Daddy and do one thing for her.  What was tricky about this is that Paul may be on our all natural diet, but me and the kids can be fine eating snacks and bird like food for a few days.  We are happy being granola, seed, nut and fruit and veggie people.  Paul needs meat.  Paul need substance.  How the heck am I supposed to do that?  So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I prepared food that he could take, but if he gave me the look of, "am I really supposed to eat that?" then I had it already prepared for the kids.  To me it felt like a win/win.

So this is what I sent with Paul to help fill in his gaps of meals, and hopefully when in a pinch, make a  meal in and of itself.  My goal was that he wouldn't hate the diet so much that he wouldn't want to do it anymore.  The challenge was great, but I have already heard from him that he is doing well, and every time he eats the food I prepared for him, he knows how much I love and support him.  And that's the goal right?  Take care of our loved ones.  Support them in their dreams and dedication to being the best they can be?  He wants to eat healthy, take care of  himself for me and the kids, rid himself of some chronic issues.  How can I not do everything in my power to help him in that. I can either be apart of his downfall, or his success.  I am his wife.  I want him to succeed.

So I sent him with:

I made our coffee cake which I get from  Its really delicious and sent Paul with three HUGE pieces, one for each morning he was gone.

Paul has eaten Larabars before and I believe his response was, "It tastes like chalk.  I can't believe you eat this."  Welcome to the diet!  So I splurged and bought a bunch of different kinds of bars for him to try.  His homework was if he didn't like it, put the rest of the bar in a baggie and bring it home so the kids could eat for a snack, they are too expensive to throw away, seriously.  And if he liked it, he needed to keep the wrapper so I knew which ones to get him next time he traveled out of town.  And yes you will see Enjoy Life candy bars in there.  I figured, he would be watching everyone else eating oreo's in the green room, if he felt like something sweet, then he had something on hand.

Hard boiled eggs are a great snack in this house.  One splurge item we use is smoked salt.  It it just to die for and we can't eggs any other way.  We are adding it to pop corn and roasted veggies, its just too good not to.  We get ours from here.  It takes our usually every day very plain food, to a whole new wonderful place of goodness.

I found this box of a cookie mix, so I decided to cook them up and had Paul try them.  He loved them, which is a huge test in this house.  So I sent him with some, ate quite a few myself and then each kid got two in their lunch the next day.  Yes, cause I ate that many if you must know.  The cookie mix was Pure Elizabeth.  Don't remember where it came from, but I will keep my eye out for it now.

I was a little surprised that Paul wanted to take the Quinoa and bean salad with walnuts in it.  I thought this was pushing his limits, but he actually really likes it, and its ALL protein   So I am hoping this big batch will help with the hunger over the weekend.

These scones are really very British and not sweet at all.  But they work great dipped in coffee or slathered with a nut butter or jam.  So that is what I sent with Paul, scones for a lunch with a can of our homemade strawberry/apple jam made this past fall.

Here is the jam and the cashew ranch dressing that I sent with him.  I figured, most of the time salad is your only option, so I wanted him to have dressing that he enjoys.

I am not gonna lie, I never thought I would see the day that meat and potato man would take a suitcase of granola, hippy, authentic real  food with him.  He had bamboo silverware and everything.  He was so happy to have food to eat, and I was so happy that was willing to pack a whole other suitcase of food.

Weekend one is a success!  Now in two weeks we will both be gone, so I guess its back to the kitchen to start preparing food for five people, two who will be gone and three that will have sitters.  I should start now so I will be done in time.

But in true confession, every minute in the kitchen is worth it.  It is worth it that my husband is happier with himself and his body and his attitude.  It is worth it for my sons ability to have friends, and interact in a healthy way with others.  That he has stayed of meds because of the food he eats.  The absence of my depression makes every moment in the kitchen worth it.  To pursue our dreams.  To use our God given gifts to bless others.  To have joy in our home.  You will probably find my body dead in the kitchen when I go, but yes it is worth. every. single. second. for the life we have.  The good things are absolutely worth the work.

The roots underground

It's confession time.

There are quite a few things that come easy to me, and because these things come easy to me, I continue to do them, because then, *gasp*, I don't have to try very hard.  It's called shallow work.  (As I write this, I realize I am reflecting a lot on my speaking career.)

Math was a lot like this growing up.  I loved it and was good at it, until I wasn't.  Then I stopped taking elective math classes.  It became too hard.  I didn't want to have to work at because I had already gotten into AP math and that was already really good.  If I stopped then, I would always be a little better than average.

Putting only enough effort into life to stand out just enough to be noticed is really no way to live.  And yet, that is what I would do.  I like to do what I am good at, or what comes easy, and leave the rest behind.  I also think that being a product of an instant, immediate culture has played its role in creating this habit within my work ethic.  This year I started to really see that in myself.  I didn't like it.  I saw myself scattered with shallow work.  Shallow work that was good enough to impress people and reach them, but was never my best. 

(The above paragraph speaks to the fact that I can easily rise to the challenge of what I know a speaker looks like and sounds like, but is what I am giving people the voice God gave me?  Do I do what I do because it's what I have seen others do, or is what I give people the voice I have searched God and myself for?  I haven't taken that deep prayerful journey that includes challenging myself and giving God total control over my ministry.  If I end up in the same spot, it will be worlds richer because I took the long introspective road to find myself there, instead of just being there because I think I should be or because I don't know where else to be.)

I was throwing my efforts wide and trying to do a lot.  This effort resulted in me really being unhappy with what I was giving people.  My husband, my children, my friends, my audience, my ministry to Haiti.  I think I got addicted to the rush. To always moving and being involved and needed.  I always needed to be doing something. I was addicted to the fun of always changing directions.  To sounding busy and effective and giving the impression like I could do it all.  And it was fun.  And I was doing a lot, but none of it to its full potential.  It prevented me from every really being alone and knowing how to manage my time. If I was busy, then I didn't have to be alone and face myself, or my decisions, or my consequences.  If you remain busy and active, then there is less time to sit and dwell and create. To grow roots.  To dig deep.  To purge secrets and dark places.  To confess and face demons and be free.  The only thing you have time for is survival.

Well, I have time now and it scares me.  I have the time to dig deep.  I have the time to develop the root system to the things I am passionate about.  I used to come home from speaking at an event where incredible things happened and Paul would ask me how it went.  I would shrug and respond, "Good I guess, it just wasn't what it could be."  I wasn't really content or satisfied with what I was producing.  I knew it could be richer.  It all had so much potential.  Potential I wasn't allowing because I wasn't taking the time to walk the long road.  Time to peel back the layers of shallowness and get deeper and richer with my content, with my vulnerabilities   Taking an hour at a time to pray over one issue.  To seek God deeply about his design for my next stage, my next step in life.  The direction for my speaking career.

Well, I have started to walk the road in the last couple weeks.  Walking the lonely road of lots of reading.  Walking the long road of hours of researching and being richer for it, but having nothing to show for it.  I wash the dishes, and I have something to show for my efforts.  I write a blog and I have something to show for my time.  Growing deep roots, roots that are grounded in time, in effort, in creativity, in research, in prayer, in study, doesn't produce immediate fruit.  It's like my raspberry bushes.  They don't produce fruit until a couple years after you first plant them.  Are you kidding me?  That's torturer to me!  I can't believe I have to wait that long!  And yet, this is what I dream for with my ministry.

All of this continues to reveal how deeply rooted my identity is wrapped up in what I can accomplish.  If you know me at all, this comes as no surprise, but every time I think I have cleaned out that dark place, there is always something else to reveal that it goes just a little deeper.  I hate admitting this.  I  hate how elementary it sounds that I would struggle to know to know who I really am and where my worth and value comes from.  But even elementary, this dark lie seeps into so much of what our culture feeds us.

Being alone most days is hard for me.  It makes me feel invisible, and apparently I need to be seen to be worth anything. (now that is hard and embarrassing to say.)  In all those hours of the day, I am faced with the choice of how to spend my time.  How I spend my time produces fruit no matter what I choose.  I have decided to spend my time as of late walking the long road of digging deep into my faith.  Of reading scripture and books that encourage me and teach me.  I am praying more over who I am and what my voice was made for.  I am researching and talking with people about business and life and social issues.  People that challenge me and force me to think outside of my box.  I am digging deeper and putting the time into chipping away at what gift lies underneath all the issues.

It's exhausting and kind of scary.  It's hard to fight the demons of result based value.  But I persevere.  I don't want to waste my time or potential anymore.  One of my greatest fears has always been that at the end of my life, I would look back and see that I was too scared to live a life out loud.  I want a life that is courageous and deep, and real, and inspiring.  By not developing a deep root system, I realize how my life will drift away.  I don't want that.  I want an inspired life.  A deep rooted, authentic, rich life.  Time to dig deep I guess.

Hello 2013.  You kind of scare me, but I'm ready now more than ever. I am ready to walk the long road.

Believing the lie part 2

So everything I wrote yesterday in this blog was true.  But there was more to say.  There is more to say because sometimes when we don't speak up, speak out, say what we need to say, or essentially live our lives, there could be other things at work as well.

We can remain silent in words and actions, living quietly hoping that no one sees us because are afraid to be ourselves.  When we allow others to control our decisions, we have handed them power over our lives.  I don't speak up because I believe you think my thoughts are simple, silly and non important.  I choose not to act because I have given you the power to silence me.  You have become my authority, my master, dictating what I say, when I say it, and how I act or behave.

As a Christian I believe I serve one master.  Well, let's be honest, scripture speaks to only being able to serve one master, as a normal human being, I have not perfected this.  My goal is to try and rededicate myself every day to the one opinion that matters, God's.

After I wrote yesterday's blog, I heard from a friend who confessed to also struggling with these same thoughts.  She heard God speak to her, "just write".  It reminded me of the first time I spoke publicly as a professional.  It was in front of 800 junior high students and I was terrified!  Terrified enough to cry continuously, confess constantly at my lack of being ready, and fear that I had made a huge mistake.  I readied myself that day repeating this mantra  "If one child hears how deeply they are loved by God, then that is why I came.  Just one child."

And then it was as clear as if God was standing right next to me.  I heard him say, "I don't care if all 800 of these students walk away not getting anything.  I brought these 800 students here for you.  I wanted you to trust me.  I wanted you to follow me, and start this journey.  I brought them here so you would say yes to me and trust me to walk you through this."

We so easily forget that we only have one small piece of the puzzle.  That God in his infinite wisdom and direction is doing many things in our lives and in the world all at the same time.  We are but one small piece of the masterpiece.  But our piece is important and our voice is needed.  Our voice and our life is needed because God does work that we do not see when we live our lives trusting him.  I may think what I do is small compared to so many others working to fight AIDS, Hunger, Poverty.  I get down on myself and believe the lie and stay quiet.  Then Satan wins, and I don't play my part.  We aren't supposed to know the effects of each of our actions, we are just supposed to live and trust God to work.  When we stay silent we harden our hearts to the kind of love and trust and faith that God has so sacrificially given to us.  We say no to the greatest gift ever given.

The last thing that really struck me as I was thinking about that post, was how easy it is to live quietly.  I think many people, including myself, are scared to live big lives.  Lives that are full of real strong opinions, or lives that take risks and chances.  Lives that pursue dreams or stand up for what we believe in.  It is terrifying to put yourself out there.  When you put yourself, your thoughts, your opinions, your beliefs, your heart, your soul out there, you leave yourself open for judgement.  Now everyone can really see you, who you are, what you are about. They will see all of you, not just the clean version of yourself you portray to everyone.  Living a big life doesn't mean starting the next big thing that will change the world, it simply means being the truest version of yourself you can be.  It means trusting your voice.  Loving yourself.  Living for God.  That is living a big life, and that my friends can be terrifying.

So there isn't just one lie to believe to keep you chained down, your heart hidden away, dreams tucked in your childhood treasure box.   There are many lies, many fears to fight through to have confidence in your voice, your life, your faith, your heart.

Let's fight the lies my friends.  Let's slay the dragon and move on.  I don't know about you, but I need more alive people in my life, and I can wait for someone else to start, but that would just be another lie.

It starts with you.
It starts with me.

You have a voice.
I have a voice.

Don't give up

We all have something that we want in life. Maybe it’s a dream, maybe it’s a lifestyle or an education, or a job, it could be a hundred different things.

In my experience, the thing that we want never seems to be easy to obtain. It takes work. It takes work to make that dream happen and it takes work to maintain it.

I have found though that when you work for it and you stand in the midst of experiencing your dream, it’s worth it. All the hours, the sacrifices, the struggles, all the work is worth it, and fuels you to keep working at it.

In my family, Paul and I both have dreams and we love pursuing them, and supporting each other in dreaming and doing what we can to make them come true. (Unavoidable life experiences happen, but when it is within your control to push forward, we do.) It takes a lot of work to make two dreamers content with life. Staying still when needed and pushing forward when able to do so. I would have said last year that it takes works to make our family happen in a healthy way. Now in our new year of dietary restrictions, school schedules, and living a dozen hours from family, it takes a LOT of work to make our life and dreams happen in a relatively healthy way.

Last year when I would prepare to be gone and speak for the weekend, I would do hours of writing prep, I would select my wardrobe, I would arrange for travel, I would pack my merchandise, I would make sure Paul had diapers, one meal already prepared, and groceries bought so he could just spend time with the kiddos. That was basically my checklist and it took me two days to make my dream come true.

I have found in our busy season that it takes me all week to prepare to leave for a weekend away. We have food items that are at certain specialty stores, so in one week it’s a stop at four different places to feed my family. On top of grocery shopping, I prepare all the meals ahead of time for my kids and then prepare snacks and small items for me to bring along so that I too can eat and not be a burden on my hosts. With adding good ole down home cooking, there is also our school schedule. We are not in activities yet, so we aren’t running around in the evenings, but school does mean packing the other kids up twice a day to take and pick up Big from school. It takes time. But it also means when I am gone, I need to arrange someone else to do the driving, and make sure there are notes to teachers, and directions for drivers, etc. The list goes on.

If we want to see our kids, that means being extra prepared so that you can prepare a little each day, play with the kids a little each day, pack a little each day, cook a little each day.

It would be a lot easier to stay home.

But staying home doesn’t make my dream come true. Doesn’t make what I believe God has gifted me with happen. Not working for it will never make my dream a reality.

It takes work to make dreams come true. It takes work to have intentional family time, to prepare devotions, to arrange your schedule to have quality time with your spouse, with your kids, and the Lord to remain healthy and balanced. It takes work when all that is said and done to say, now I push forward on making my dream happen. Now I get myself back in my kitchen to prepare food for my family so I can be gone. Now I get off the couch and workout so my body doesn’t fall apart and I feel better. After all that is said and done, now I write. Now I read. Now I paint. Now I play my instrument.

Now I make my dream happen.

After I used EVERY dish, I’m not kidding, every dish in my kitchen this past week to prepare all eight meals for the weekend for us while we were gone, I thought to myself, this is crazy. This is a lot of work. Why are doing this?

Then I watched my husband take the stage in front of 800 people. I love watching him play. He’s alive when he plays. He is at his best when he plays. He is connected to his soul more then ever when plays. I experience how different our family time is when we are away from home. The games my kids and I play together, and the fun we have because we get to come with dad once in awhile. And it’s worth it.

The work to make your dreams come true are worth it. Don’t give up. Keep pushing forward. Find the balance. Learn when to say no, but don’t give up. No one applauds the daily dirty work to make your life happen. Its what you do if you believe in your dream enough. The daily work isn’t to be praised by others, its for your own growth, your own depth of character to appreciate when the dream happens.

Don't give up.

In never giving up, most of what makes it so much work is putting God and family first. It’s making sure you still see your kids, you still laugh with your spouse, you still sit and read together at night. That you find time to snuggle and play. Those aren’t the sacrifices you make to have dreams come true. Make sure those things still happen cause you’ll never get those moments back. Fight hard to find the balance and never give up.

Side note: I know there are short cuts to not preparing every meal. We have LarBars for meals, we eat all fresh fruit and veggies for snacks, we eat scrambled eggs for dinner, or veggies and hummus. I cut my corners, but mostly we also value health, and want to make sure we never cut corners when it comes to feeding and training our kids about food.

ND Leadership retreat

I love doing event ministry. Even more than participating in retreats, I love hanging out with teenagers.

This past weekend, was even more special for me.

More than a year ago, the ND District asked me to come and be their first female Keynote speaker and I was already speaking somewhere else, but they were patient and asked again this year. I was so happy it worked out because I haven't been to ND in quite some time, and I love that students who saw me at the National Youth Gathering wanted me to come to their local event. It is the highest compliment paid to a speaker.

Another highlight for me this past weekend was that the leadership team for this event hired Paul to do the music for the weekend. Working with Paul and doing ministry together with him is probably one of my favorite things to do. I have so much respect for his musical ability, his relational ministry and his talent for quick wit from the stage. He is so fantastic! We haven't done an event together in years, and that used to be with his band. Its hard to both be gone for the weekend with kids when we don't have family here to watch them. This was the first time we worked together at an event, just the two of us. Dear friends of ours took the kids for the whole weekend and allowed this rare and special gift. It was amazing!

This weekend was different than other retreats I usually speak at, but it made it more interesting and challenging. When I am asked to be a keynote, the theme is usually different, but the outline looks very similar. I typically present four keynote messages generally for 20-30min at a time starting on Friday night and ending Sunday morning. This past weekend, I had the challenge of presenting two 60min presentations and one 90min session. It was a great challenge and I loved because it forces me to rethink my messages. It challenges me to go deeper, push further and incorporate elements into my talks that I don't usually have time for.

My first session spoke to a topic close to my heart which is identity. Challenging students to rethink where they get their identity and then go even further and challenge how they see God. Living in a place of basing our faith understanding on false identity for ourselves and God can lead to a life of fruitless searching.

For the second hour we discussed expectations. The expectations we place on God, others and ourselves.

It was easy to present for 90min when the topic was mission and outreach. Where identity is close to my heart, talking about an organic, natural way of living out our faith in mission is my heart. It was exciting to have so much time to really dig into this on a local, national and global scale.

In between sessions, I had the joy and privilege of hanging out with the high school students. This is hands down my favorite part of any retreat. I love hearing students stories, I love hearing what God is doing in their life despite hardships and how they want to participate in making the world a better place. They allow me to see their hearts and it is such an honor to invited into their lives for even just a small moment in time.

The ND district youth team put together a fabulous Leadership training event. They incorporated student led sessions, keynote sessions and great music. It was an intense weekend, but so worth the drive.

Well done! It was a joy and honor to work with you all and I pray I have the privileged to do it again some day.

Talking about sex

So I was asked to speak about Self Image and Sex tonight at a church.

Just to let you in a little secret, I don't talk about these things. Not in a "it makes me uncomfortable, and I have 12 year old's sense of humor so I can't talk about it", but in a "I haven't found an appropriate stage for this conversation, so I don't want to talk about it" kind of way.

People joke that as a woman speaker, this is what I should be speaking about, but it's never been my thing. I don't promote this talk in any of my PR, but I also won't say no if someone really wants to me to do it.

Until now. I think I found my limit and I will say no from here on out.

This is what I realized tonight.

The church shouldn't address the issue of sex with a wide audience of students. I just believe that each of those students are coming from such a different place and the topic is so broad that it is impossible to communicate what you want and address the actual topics the students want and need to know about. Then you are left with a broad and general response to something so deeply personal. Thus the church really hasn't addressed any issue.

Students are ranging from not even being interested, to maybe working up the courage to talk to the person they aren't even sure how they are feeling about. You might even have students who have committed their first kiss being on their wedding day. Then you have the students that want to hold hands and sit on each other's lap and they get excited when the person they like is around. Beyond that you have students who are feeling pressured into intimate touching, or oral sex and sex. On the even darker side you have STD's, rape of all kinds, sex parties, abuse, abortion, teen pregnancy, porn, masturbation, and sex trafficking.

That's just the physical stuff. What about guilt, shame, abandonment, low self esteem, excitement, fear, joy, fulfillment, adoration, love, lust... the list goes on.

Now what about the media, social pressure, peer pressure, movies, music, TV, magazines, and all the things they have to say, persuade, or lead you to believe about the issue. Shouldn't we shed some light on those issues?

All these issues are wrapped up on in just one word... sex. I didn't even touch body image.

So how in our right mind can we as adults in the church expect to communicate effectively about this issue to a large audience of students (and maybe their parents) on this very intense, deeply complicated issue?

We do it one on one or in very small groups that are made up of same sex and age or experience, which seems kind of unlikely.

Tonight I tanked as a speaker. I felt all over the board, I felt shallow and surface, two things I HATE being when I am on stage. But I looked out at the audience and saw little boys. Truly, little boys who just want to play cops and robbers, and grown up girls with makeup and pierced ears. I saw parents and little girls who still play with barbie, and the middle school jock who is too cool to care or listen. I looked out and thought, each of you needs something different. Each of you has different experiences and questions, and now I am going to be that chick who says, wait until your married, period without even digging deeper.

I heard that when I was younger, and when the cute boy looked my way, I didn't care what they said in church.

So how do you effectively talk about sex?

I don't know. That's why I'm not going to anymore. I'll leave it to the experts. Unless you want me to come to an intense personal low key weekend retreat where I get small group time with an other adult and students, then I'll do it. We'll get to the real stuff quick and bring Jesus along with us.

Man I really didn't do well tonight and that is hard for me to accept, but I know it's because this issue is too big for one session, and that's all I had.

Now that my rant is done, please understand that anytime we as believers can encourage young people to abstain from sex outside of marriage, I think we should. Do I believe that God works even in my weakness and my perceived failure, absolutely. If these are the only times that churches can orchestrate a time to talk about sex, then take what you can get. But might I suggest, pick one or two of these issues to pin point and dig deep. Group your kids to be with other kids their own age so the topic is relevant to them. Set this time up for success for them.

But why don't we all just embrace the fact that maybe we could talk about it more in our daily life with the young people who trust us. They have to get their information from somewhere. Be their source of information and trust and respect. Hear their issues and lift them up in prayer. Guide and counsel them in the way of the word. And love them even when they make mistakes. Or encourage them in wise choices.

Three days later: Its been interesting to see people's response to this post. Just to clarify, I am fine talking about sex, I just need to know what piece of this huge complicated puzzle you want me to address and to what specific group of people. I am not uncomfortable talking about sex or talking in front of large groups, this evening did reveal to me though how broad and wide the range of this issue is and how we can't communicate all the things the students need to know in one night. I was finally able to put words to my frustrations. I am thankful for that, but wish I had been in a better mental place when presenting and had already sorted all of this out. If you end up talking with students about sex, make sure you know where they are coming from first, and figure out what they are needing to know.

Living in extreme's

It's funny, this weekend revealed to me how much my life is lived in extremes.

I left a house partly under construction, toys and laundry and dishes brimming. My kids were loudly playing batman and the regular chaos was well underway. I arrived to a pristine upper class hotel that was quiet, clean, and WAY too quiet.

I have over 100 hundred questions hurled at me a minute in my house. My daughter trying to keep up, just keeps yelling, "Mama, mama, mama! Um.... Mama, mama, mama! Um...." I sat in the car in complete silence for five hours while I drove to WI. (OK, I drove in silence for awhile, but then had hours of listening to a book on CD without engaging with anyone. I talked to no one and no one needed me for FIVE HOURS!)

I can't get my kids to listen to a word I say it feels most days. At the event I went to this weekend, I had a kid come up to me and tell me he wrote down one of my quotes and it still hangs on his wall to help inspire him. Crazy right!?

I wear my sweats most days dreaming of a shower. I put on jewelery and took a half hour shower while away each day.

There are bars on most of the window's of the stores and apartment building's where I live. Boards grace people's window's, mattress lie around in the alley, and there is graffiti scattered throughout. I arrived downtown Appleton to this gorgeous hotel that I could never afford on my own. Most of the time I don't feel I belong in either place.

It felt like whip lash this weekend. Everything about my time away this weekend was different than my normal life, but speaking is part of my life.

Loud to quiet.
Unappreciated to overly praised.
Unseen to the center of the spotlight.
Scrubby to dolled up.
Craving peace and quiet to needing noise.
Feeling claustrophobic to feeling lonely.

I wish there was some way to find a balance to these extremes of my life, but in the meantime, I will just try to cherish each place I find myself, knowing that it won't be there for long and will change again soon.

Finding speaking opportunities

There are so many things about my life that I love. I feel like every aspect of who I am feeds the other pieces of myself. The opportunities when I get to go and speak allow me time away to refresh and renew and come home with a clearer mind to pour into my kids and husband. Being home with my kids allows me time (lets be real, they are more like fleeting moments, not long drawn out reflective times)to be shaped by God, learn from being a parent, and continually fall on his grace and mercy. Being home also allows me time to work on my speaking gigs.

At least that's the way it would work in an ideal world.

Having a third child has kind of been like drowning. I really don't mean that in a horrible way, and I wouldn't give up my daughter or the timing of having of her for anything. She is my little sunshine, and she absolutely has my heart. What I am speaking of is the work it takes to raise kids and the time and attention they need. Having a third put me over the edge. The edge for some people is the second child, for others its the third or fourth. Everyone has an edge. Mine was our third. I all of a sudden could recognize how long it took me to do simple chores that once before took maybe half the time it takes now. At the end of the day, I can look around at all of my half started projects and think, "why didn't I finish that?"

This past year, I had some amazing speaking opportunities. I got those opportunities because I had time the year before to pursue them, to find them, to pray over them, to send out my information to new contacts and events and conferences.

Now my bookings are done. I haven't had any time to pursue new speaking opportunities and that makes me sad. I love doing what I'm doing, but I won't get much of a chance to do it this next year, unless some opportunities come my way. So I am starting to feel unbalanced.

Here is my dilemma. It's spring right now and I'm busy preparing my yard and garden for vegetables and berries. We are big into eating our own food and harvesting our garden. I am also still, yes still, vacuuming my yard, but that completely crazy, obnoxious task will be done today! Then I have to repaint. Replant flowers, etc. I love doing yard work, expect it's like adding three rooms of chores to the chore list.

I've been busy the last week working in my yard instead of looking for opportunities to speak and share the good news of Christ with youth and young adults. And now instead of finding bookings or gardening, I'm just complaining about my problem on my blog.

Sometimes I find the perfect solution. (rolling of eyes)

So, if you or your church, or school, or business, or retreat that you love to attend is looking for a speaker that presents the gospel of Jesus Christ through real life experience and Biblical truth, let me know.

Or just send them to my website for my press kit and information. I would love to expand my ministry and meet some new people and see what God will do.