Monday, December 5, 2011

This Will Wreck You

At church yesterday, we saw two videos and I wanted to share them with you. To be honest, if I come across a video on a blog, it has to be super intriguing in order for me to click play, but I promise these are worth it.

The first is about Advent Conspiracy. It's how our family is approaching Christmas this year. We're praying and talking about how we can engage more fully in the true meaning of Christmas.

Somewhere along the way, we've strayed so far from celebrating the birth of a baby.

The coming of a King.

A Rescuer.

A Deliverer.

A Healer.

The One who takes everything that's wrong and makes it right.

Somehow, we have to make our way back. This is our beginning.

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

The second video was introduced like this: "This will wreck you."

It's true. This is not okay. This is where our excess money will go.

Love146 Overview from LOVE146 on Vimeo.

This Christmas, I want to celebrate the One who came to bring good news to the poor, to set the captives free. I think helping to rescue people from unimaginable oppression is a good start.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who Are You Trying To Impress?

The last week at our house has been focused on celebrating our baby girl's 8th birthday. After the party, special snacks at school, and her restaurant-of-choice for dinner (including dessert!), I think I have been absolved for the birthday injustice I heaped upon her last year.

Last year on Corban's birthday, we were out of town at her sister's cheer competition. We tried to make it special, but it's kinda hard to make sitting in an arena for 8 hours seem like something fantastic. After that, I kept promising we would have a party for her. And we did...

in April. (if you're keeping count, that's five whole months after her birthday)

Last year, I was stressed.

Last year, we were too busy.

Last year, the thought of having to do one more thing, much less plan and execute one more thing, made me want to eat cookies and sleep for days on end.

But this year, as I thought about celebrating Corban's birthday, I felt God whisper a significant question to me.

Who are you trying to impress?

Who are you trying to impress with the fancy themed birthday party? With the over-the-top goodie bags? With the super crafty decorations? Who are you trying to impress by implementing all the amazing party ideas you find on Pinterest? (and they are really amazing) With the adorable bakery-bought cake?

I avoided the question for a while, but after some deep digging, I finally came to terms with the fact that all this time I've been trying to impress myself. I've wanted my kids' birthday parties to reflect how wonderful and crafty and creative I am as a mom. I've wanted all the guests to be jealous. I've wanted all the moms to "ooh" and "aah" over the cuteness of the party they have just beheld. I've wanted my kids to think I'm the greatest mom in the whole world. Because of a birthday party? Really?!

It sounds ridiculous when you put it like that. So now, I'm doing things differently.

As I planned this year's party, I kept that question in mind. Once I got over myself, I realized the only one I should be trying to impress is Corban. It's her birthday and what she thinks about it is all that matters. I want her to feel loved and celebrated. I want her to enjoy the day.

So she got to make every decision about her party. She picked the place, the invitations, designed and helped decorate the cake, and even placed the candles wherever she wanted them. It turned out to be zero-stress for me, and she loved every minute of it.

My sweet birthday girl.

As it turns out, she's much easier to impress than I am. And I'm so glad.

What about you? Do you stress over making parties perfect?

P.S. I have a sneaking suspicion that I've been treating Christmas at our house the same way I've treated birthday parties, so this question will be staying with me through the holiday season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Billy Coffey On The Writing Life

I read this amazing post on the WordServe WaterCooler blog today and had to repost it. I'm brand spanking new to the writing life, but I've already felt every emotion Billy describes there.

It's so nice to know I'm not crazy.

Wait, that might be too generous...

It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Staying Focused

I haven't done much blogging here or on my personal blog in the last few months because I'm desperately trying to stay focused and finish my book.

Like everyone else in the world, I have a day job and a super-busy family that I'm supposed to love and nurture and feed three times a day (or in the case of my teenage son, seventy-two times a day), so I have very little concentrated writing time. The time I do have, I spend on my work-in-progress. And yes, it's the same WIP I've been working on since last November. I told you how rough that rough draft was, right?

My goal is to have it completed by the end of November and enter it in another contest. I've found that contest entry deadlines are really great targets for me and help me to keep pushing through even when it's hard (which is most of the time). I like having something to shoot for and I think it's good practice at meeting real deadlines, which I hope to have someday.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in. Now back to writing rewriting. :-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Silver Lining of Loserville

I recently got my scoresheets back from the first writing contest I entered. Surprise...I didn't win. :-)

Let me just say, I have a whole new appreciation for anyone who creates something, then has the guts to release it into the world. It is a horrifying experience, but one I'm thankful for.

My entry was judged by two anonymous authors. Judge #1 gave me very high marks (we love her!). Judge #2 gave me very low marks (haters gonna hate). I've had some time to process, have an emotional breakdown, then come back to rational center. Now I can see how incredibly valuable each judge's feedback was.

I opened Judge #1's sheet first and it's a good thing I did. She made positive comments all over the place and gave me the kind of encouragement I really needed at this point in my journey. She also gave constructive feedback about specific areas she thought could be improved. Overall, Judge #1's comments helped me believe in myself and quiet that voice of doubt that had been whispering things like...  

The judges are going to laugh at how awful your entry is. 

They'll probably save your piece to use at conferences when they need a hilarious example of how not to write.

You're like one of those people on American Idol who says "My mama thinks I sing better than anybody else on the whole planet!" And then Simon tells them it was rubbish and that their mama's a tone-deaf idiot. (this one was honestly my biggest fear in entering the contest)

Thank you Judge #1 for helping me quiet those voices.

Then I opened Judge #2's sheet. She had nothing good to say about anything until the very end when the scoresheet specifically asked for her favorite part of the entry. And even then, she only mentioned one little sentence and said "Good detail." Meh. I had two solid pages of feedback consisting of comments like boring, not buying it, cliche, needs more grit, just commit and paint the picture, make me care about these characters. Okaaay then.

After I yelled at Judge #2 for a while, I went through and tried to look at every remark objectively. Even though it was painful at first, I had to admit that while I needed the emotional encouragement of Judge #1, following Judge #2's suggestions would make my story stronger which is ultimately what I want. I mean, if I can rewrite that thing and make Judge #2 love it, then there's a much better chance that other people would love it, too. Right?

So, I picked out a few things to keep from my original entry, then scrapped the rest and completely rewrote it.

And guess what. It's soooo much better.

Thank you Judge #2.

So the upside of being a big, fat writing contest loser is...

      1. Actual people read my work, criticized it and I didn't die.

      2. The criticism pushed me to become a better writer. Go figure.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Baby Steps

I'm taking baby steps on this journey.

When I first started thinking about writing a novel, I couldn't really imagine how little ol' me could start with a blank page and end up with an engaging story 100k words later. So my first year of dream chasing was spent testing the waters, seeking answers to "Can I really do this?"

I immersed myself in studying the craft and story ideas began to bubble up until one took hold and stoked me enough that I thought I could spend the next year(s) of my life laboring over it.  I created characters and outlined a plot, something I never imagined could be so life-giving for me.

I started following several writing blogs and joined My Book Therapy, an online community for aspiring writers of Christian fiction, a community that was invaluable to me when I took my biggest baby step yet. In November 2010, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). During NaNo, people all over the world sign up to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in one month. I don't know if it was a great idea for someone who has never written fiction to jump right in and try to write a whole book in 30 days, but guess what...I DID IT! I wrote my first-ever first draft of a novel and I got the little "NaNo winner" badge to prove it. (Note to self: slap that badge up on this blog)

That first draft was rough. Oh man, was it rough. But for the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt like I had actually accomplished something. I set a huge goal for myself and I reached it! And at the end of November, I decided I really can do this.

2011 rolled around and I set some more goals, mostly involving a complete rewrite of that rough draft, then fighting through all my fears & insecurities to submit my work to a contest where actual people who know what they're doing read it. Nauseating.

Baby steps, for sure. But with each step, I feel more alive. I feel like I'm finally becoming who I was made to be. My heart says this is it for me. I'm on the right path. 

Baby steps. It's really the only way to get anywhere, don't you think?

"Who dares despise the day of small things?" Zechariah 4:10

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chasing A Dream and Hearing Voices

It's been a whole year since a new dream hit me upside the head.

One night last May, I was overcome with the need to write, which in itself isn't all that unusual for me. But the kind of writing I wanted to do surprised me. I suddenly found myself wanting to write fiction. Like, really wanting to write fiction.

I've always had a little seed of a dream of writing a book in the way back of my mind, but I always thought it would be nonfiction. For one thing, I don't consider myself a very creative person, so it never occurred to me that I could create engaging stories. But in that moment, I just knew I had to try.


1. I love fiction. I love to read and get lost in a story.

2. Stories change people. In my day job, we say we measure success by stories of transformation. I want to tell those kinds of stories.

One phrase kept running through my mind that night and has continued every day since. I want to tell a compelling Kingdom story.

So, I decided to learn how to do it. I went to the library, checked out a stack of writing craft books and started studying. Some concepts were easy for me to grasp, but for the most part I felt like I was in waaaaay over my head. And the voices of doubt began to whisper. Or shout.

Who do you think you are? 

You'll never be able to write a novel.

You're too old to start chasing this dream. You should've started 20 years ago.

There's already a writer in your family. You'll never be as good as her. (It's she! "You'll never be as good as she." See?! You're not even good at grammar!)

The voices kept talking, but I also began to hear whispers of encouragement that kept me going. I had to choose which voices to listen to and which to shut up, which, as it turns out, is a full-time job! The voices never stop.

Learning how to write fiction has unearthed a whole new set of insecurities and fears for me. I have a feeling I'll be posting about those a lot as I continue to battle them on this journey.

But I'm pressing on.

My dream is worth it because God put it in my heart. He intended for me to chase it -- why else would He put it there? When I fully believe that, chasing my dream becomes an act of worship, an offering to the Creator of the universe. And worship is never wasted.

Whether this dream turns out like I want it to or not.

Are you chasing your dream?

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Very Princess-y Mother's Day

Another Mother's Day has come and gone, and I'm happy to report that I survived with my dignity and self-esteem intact...mostly. (Check out last year's Mother's Day post for more info on that).  I did receive the ever unpredictable Mother's Day card/poem from school, but it painted me in a fairly positive light this year (if fairly positive light = not a total flake). So that was good.

I also got a very special gift.

About a week ago, my 7 year-old started talking about the gift she was making for me at school, ramping up the excitement and anticipation (aka anxiety) each day.  Her comments started on Monday with a little grin and twinkling eyes saying, "I can't wait to give you your Mother's Day present." And by Friday, we had progressed to squeals and clapping and jumping from the furniture with declarations of, "You are going to LOVE your Mother's Day present! It's going to make you feel just like a princess!"

Oh. snap.

Cue heart palpitations and scaly fingers of dread constricting my throat. (Dramatic much?)

What in the world could she have made at school that would make me feel just like a princess? I had no idea.  I mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter and the general consensus among my friends was that...

1.) I should, in fact, be very nervous about this gift.

2.) There was a strong likelihood that at some point on Mother's Day, I would end up in an adult-sized tutu. A tiara was not completely out of the question, either.

The one ray of hope I clung to was that surely an adult-sized tutu couldn't fit in her little backpack. Right? It couldn't, could it?! Please, God, don't let it fit in her backpack.

Looking back, there were a couple of hints that should have clued me in on this princess-inducing gift, but my muddled mommy brain didn't put it all together until afterwards.  One was when she said, "Mom, have you ever had tea in a pouch?" 

"Uh, not that I recall.  Is that like a CapriSun or something?"

"Yeah, I guess. But I think you mix it with water first."

Hmmm. Tea in a pouch? That sounds as though it would make me feel like the exact opposite of a princess, but okay.

Well, Sunday finally arrived and I woke up to Corban's sweet, freckled face beaming with pride as she delivered this to my bedside table...

Breakfast in a Bag! And tea in a pouch! Turns out, I've completely failed Parenting 101 since my kid has never heard of a tea bag. My English friends are going to be so ashamed of me.

I have never felt closer to being royalty in all my life. I've also never been more relieved to receive a brown paper bag as a gift.

I love that little girl. She's just one of my three amazing reasons to celebrate being a mom.

If you're a mom, I hope you had a beautiful Mother's Day and were treated like a princess, too.

What's your favorite (or most shameful) Mother's Day gift story? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Foundational Success Factor

I ended yesterday's post with a cliff hanger (I'm surprised any of you were able to sleep last night from the suspense of it) and a question: What is the biggest factor of success?

I think there are a few key factors, but I believe there is one that is absolutely foundational. I'm convinced that we could have 47 other success factors nailed and still fail because we lack this one thing.

What is it?


It doesn't matter what job we're doing, if we display strength and depth of character, we will set ourselves apart from everyone else because good character is rare.  

Here are three ways to exhibit the kind of character that's necessary for success:
  • Be Reliable -- We need to do what we say we'll do, be where we say we'll be, and be there on time.  I see the impact of this characteristic (or lack thereof) in my business when I talk to people who are looking for a new cleaning service. The most common reason they give for wanting to find someone new is that their previous service was unreliable. The cleaning lady was supposed to be there every other Tuesday at 9:00am, but they never knew if she'd really show up.  Customers won't put up with that kind of performance for long. Neither will employers. If we prove our reliability, we'll quickly find ourselves gaining favor with the people who matter in our business.
  • Do Every Task With Excellence -- Excellence is accomplished in the details, so we can't cut corners or take short-cuts. No job is insignificant. Every little thing counts, so it's necessary to give our best to every task, no matter how small or unimportant it seems. A guy named John W. Gardner said, "Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well." (I'll bet he had all kinds of excellent accomplishments). When we give the extra effort to do things well, we set a standard for excellence that shows in everything we do. 
  • Be Faithful in the Little Things -- At Bloom, when we interview new people, we always tell them that we're looking for people who are faithful in the little things. We want people who are willing to work hard and prove themselves over time. People who are humble, have a willingness to learn, and can be trusted with really big things because they've shown themselves to be consistently trustworthy with really small things. (Jesus tells a pretty good story about this in Matthew 25).
These are just a few ways we can show ourselves to be people of strong character in the workplace, but I really believe living these things will set us apart and help us move forward.  

Do you agree that character is foundational to success? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's the Biggest Factor in Success?

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking to an amazing group of women at a conference hosted by the Bethel Foundation, which is an organization that provides lots of fantastic resources to single mothers in OKC.  I was asked to speak about career opportunities, a topic that sounded relatively easy to me at first, but proved to be more difficult the more I researched and prepared.

Naturally, I shared the vision of my own company (Bloom Home Cleaning) and our heart for providing a business opportunity for women and a community to help them succeed in every area of life (physical, emotional, spiritual). But the truth is, there aren't a lot of realistic opportunities for women who have little money for a start-up venture and/or lack a high level of education or specialized skills. I love that Bloom is a realistic opportunity--there's no start-up cost and anyone who's willing to work hard can do it--but it's not for everyone.

I did come up with a page full of career resources, but the more I thought and prayed about what to say to these women, the more my heart screamed, "Give them hope!" Being a single mom is more difficult than I can even imagine, so I wanted them to know that they can succeed and that someone believes in them.

So, instead of going over a list of potential careers and jobs (they got that as a hand-out), I spent the time talking about three things that I believe directly affect a person's level of success in their job, no matter if they work at McDonald's or they're a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or they're a starving artist.

I want to share those thoughts with you, too, and see what you think. But I'm going to break it up into a few separate posts so it's not so long. You're welcome.

Tomorrow, I'll give you the first thing on my list. In my experience, it's the single biggest factor when it comes to succeeding at any job. It's the Big Mama. It's why some people get promoted and others get fired. And in my business, it's how we keep customers.

Any guesses as to what it is? What's the first thing you would tell people if you were asked to speak about career opportunities? hmmm. maybe I should've asked that question before I gave my little talk. :-)

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Good Friday Song

This song is speaking to me, especially today on Good Friday. I've asked God this question plenty of times...

Where were you?

And He answered with the most mind-blowing, powerful display of love and mercy the world has ever seen. 

I feel unworthy. 

And so very thankful.

How about you? Have you ever felt this way? How is your heart being stirred during the Easter season?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lessons Learned from Justin Bieber (For Real)

I recently took my tweenage daughter and a couple of her bff's to see the critically-acclaimed Justin Bieber movie Never Say Never. Now, I can stand a little Bieber music on the radio. I've even been known to sing along with the kids in the car, but I really wasn't looking forward to two solid hours of Beiberiffic concert footage. In 3D.

But, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't just concert footage, but the story of how he went from regular kid to mega teen heartthrob music spectacular guy (I think that's the title on his business card).  It was a really great story, and I walked away inspired by a kid who chased a dream and caught it.

Here are a few things that stood out to me...

It takes years of hard work to become an overnight success.  
From the outside, it's easy to assume that Justin Bieber posted a video on YouTube and BAM! a music bigwig saw it, signed him to their record label, and the rest is history. In reality, he became a music student at a very early age and continued to learn and improve his craft. Then he started entering local music competitions and performing at every possible opportunity. After he landed an agent, he played waterparks and traveled all over the country to play at radio stations until he finally convinced them he could sell records (the stations didn't want to play music by a "little kid" because they said he wouldn't have a big enough fan base).  Then, after all that hard work and persistence, he became what seemed to be an overnight sensation with gajillions of young girls screaming and fainting for him. If he hadn't put in all the hours of work, he would still be a regular kid.
(This makes me think of the "10,000 hour rule" in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. If you haven't read it, you should.)

Don't underestimate the power of social media.
Social media is a crazy phenomenon and it played a huge role in building Justin Bieber's fan base. He started by posting videos on YouTube. He began to gain a following and that's where his agent discovered him. Later, when he was playing all those waterparks and radio stations, he would tweet about where he was going to be and invite fans to come see him.  One day, ten little girls showed up outside one of the radio stations. Twenty little girls showed up at the next one. Then forty. And the crowd kept growing until he played in a mall somewhere and the fire marshal had to evacuate the place because there were too many people. And then the radio stations decided he might have a decent fan base after all and agreed to play his songs. 

So if you're trying to build a platform or a brand or a fan base, you should be maximizing your potential by using social media. BUT... Use it as a way to genuinely connect with people. Don't just use it to promote your latest product. People hate that. They want to connect with you and like you, then they'll buy your stuff because they've had positive interactions with you online.

Follow your passion.
When you take away all the fancy trappings of Justin Bieber's current lifestyle, you get a kid who simply loves music. I am firmly convinced that we should do what we love. We live in the age of opportunity, so no matter what your passion is, you can make a living doing it. You want to be a glass blower? Do it. Do you love Halo so much you want to marry it? There's a way for you to make money at it. Be an artist, a marathon runner, an entrepreneur. I don't care what your dream is or how crazy it seems. It's your dream for a reason and you should chase it with everything you've got.  It will take a lot of hard work, but won't it be worth it to get to the place where you can say, "I'm living my dream!" Go for it!
(Check out this post by Jon Acuff and this post by Phil Cooke about dream chasing.)     

Never. Say. Never. 
Justin Bieber had a dream to play at Madison Square Garden for a sell-out crowd and he constantly told his agent, "I can do this." Dream big and believe in yourself. If you say it will never happen... it won't.

I guess this post is evidence that I've officially caught the Bieber Fever. Help.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Grocery Store Melt-Down

This song is rocking my world right now. I bought the album a few days ago and started listening to it on the way to the grocery store, which turned out to be a mistake because I ended up a weeping, snotty mess in the parking lot of the Neighborhood Market. I'm not really a crier, so my first reaction when the tears start flowing is, "What's wrong with me?" which is not a question easily answered. 

I finally composed myself enough to go in the store, but the "what's wrong with me?" wouldn't go away. I pushed my cart through the aisles wondering why this song had affected me so much until finally, right there in front of the shampoo and conditioner, it hit me. Death. My heart was breaking over all the death and brokenness in the world and in my own life and the lives of people I love. 

Physical death. Emotional death. The death of hopes and dreams and relationships. Everything is broken and dying.

BUT (here's my favorite part of the song) Jesus trampled over death and calls us to... 

come awake, come awake
come and rise up from the grave.

And there's the hope. Even though we're surrounded by death, we can be alive. 

I don't know about you, but I want to be fully awake and alive. Even though it's Monday. :-)

P.S. My other favorite part is at 2:38. Gives me chills.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break Day O' Fun - 4

Day 4: Birthday Fest!

I'm a St. Patty's Day girl and I had a wonderful birthday. The day started with the most amazing gift...sleeping late! Like til 10 o'clock! Yes, amazing.

I woke up (in my green pajamas, of course) to two giddy little girls at my bedside, one holding my robe and one holding my fuzzy slippers. They led me to the kitchen for a birthday breakfast they had prepared all by themselves, decorations and all. Aren't they the sweetest?!

That afternoon, we went to see Tangled with Monner -- so cute, it may be my new favorite Disney movie -- then back to Monner's where the girls decorated birthday cupcakes for me. That evening, Ron & I went out for dinner and shopping all by ourselves.  Glorious Thanks to Mark & Melissa for watching our kids so we could have a fun night out.

So, a fantastic Day 4 of Spring Break! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Break Day O' Fun - 3

Day 3: Cheesecake and Presents!

Today, we celebrated the March birthdays of our family with a girly lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. I'm so lucky to live near my amazing mom & sisters and the awesome OKC contingent of cousins (we miss our faraway cousins, though, and made sure to eat enough cheesecake for you).

The birthday girls...


Me and the candle that wouldn't blow out.


It's always so fun to be with my family! Especially when they give me presents. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Break Day O' Fun - 2

Day 2: Skating!

Today we went on a field trip with the Rock Island kids to the fabulous Roll-a-Way roller rink. Everyone seemed to have a good time, even though there was a rather large learning curve on the skating for most of the kids (which meant all the adults were very tired after holding up slippy-slidey little bodies for 2 hours). Fun, fun!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break Day O' Fun - 1

I cannot tell you how happy I am that it's SPRING BREAK! We've been dealing with sickness and crazy schedules and homework and regular work and all the other good stuff you just need a break from every now and then, so our biggest plan for Spring Break is to rest (ahhhh). But we also want the kids to have some fun, so we're doing a little something every day to make the week special.

Day 1: Crafty Day!

My super crafty friend, Melissa, came over and we made signs for our One Word. I put mine in the kitchen so I will constantly see it and be reminded that it's worth it to finish what I start. I love it! 

And the girls made super cute signs for their rooms. They love craftiness. Can you tell?

Are you doing anything for Spring Break? Or is this just a regular old week for you?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Change For A Dollar - Part 2

Today, I want to share a follow-up story about Change for a Dollar, the cool new thing we're doing at Skyline OKC.

Last week, not long after this post, Ron got a phone call. We were having dinner -- he usually doesn't answer during dinner -- but his phone was sitting on the counter and Corban grabbed it when it rang. She accidentally accepted the call, so Ron took it, left the dinner table and closed himself up in our bedroom for a while.

This kind of thing doesn't happen all the time, but it has happened enough that I knew he was talking to one of his Rock Island kids.

And I was right. He emerged from the bedroom an hour later with tears in his eyes.

It was a 17 year-old girl who had been one of Rock Island's core kids for several years, but lately had stopped being so involved. Like most of the RI kids, she has lived in difficult circumstances for her whole life. She has basically raised herself. Her mom is a meth addict and her dad just hasn't been around. She's had to grow up faster than any girl should because the adults in her life chose getting high over raising a child. But, when I look at her life, I'm amazed at how well she has done for herself.

The reason for her call, though, is the most heartbreaking part of the story. She hadn't been feeling well for a while and after a few doctor visits and tests, she was told that she is in a very advanced stage of cancer. There are still more tests to be done and options to be weighed, but the doctors are telling her that  even with treatment, she's only got about a year.

Ron prayed for her on the phone and had some pretty straight Jesus talk with her. It's not very often that you can say to a person, "Jesus is your only hope" and really mean it. We throw that kind of talk around a lot, but deep down we always hold onto a little bit of hope in something, or someone, else...medicine, doctors, new research for a cure. But for this girl, Jesus really is her only hope.

And she knows it.

After Ron told me what was going on, we both thought she might be the perfect person to bless with Skyline's Change for a Dollar money, so we checked in and were given the go-ahead. We had $300 to help this sweet girl, which isn't much in the grand scheme of cancer treatments, but anything we could do to help ease her stress would be good. We were thinking about using it to buy fast food gift cards or offering it for medical bills or even to get her a cell phone, but when Ron asked her what she needed most right now, he got this surprising answer:

"There's a bench warrant for my arrest."

She had gotten into some trouble a while back for shoplifting. She did the community service part of her sentence (which she served at Rock Island) but was never able to pay the fine. And when asked what she needed most at this moment, the scariest time of her life, she said she needed to pay that fine so that if God chooses to heal her, she can have a clean record and get a job and move forward with her life.

And take a wild guess as to how much the fine was.  Yep. $300.

Through a gesture as simple as paying a fine, a beautiful picture of grace and redemption was painted in the life of a 17 year-old, newly diagnosed cancer patient.

The Kingdom came. And it brought joy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Change for a Dollar

The Kingdom of God is a crazy thing. It's mind-blowing, really.

In the Old Testament, there are promises proclaimed over and over that the Kingdom of God is COMING. Then Jesus shows up and announces that the Kingdom of God is HERE. But even after that, Jesus talks a lot about what will happen when the Kingdom of God comes LATER, which means it's not fully here yet. So...

It's coming, it's here, and it's not yet = say whaaa?

Jesus lived in the reality of all three of those things...the expectation of the coming, the joy of the here now, and the hope of the not yet. When he encountered people who desperately needed the Kingdom to come in their lives, He reached in and touched them and gave them a huge dose of it. Sometimes He healed people, sometimes He got rid of their demons, and sometimes He just showed them they were worth sharing a meal and a conversation with. But no matter how He shared the Kingdom, it always brought joy to the people experiencing it.

My brain could wrestle with this stuff for the rest of my life and I still won't really get it, but the cool thing is that we don't have to totally understand it to live it.

Two weeks ago, our church started a thing called "Change for a Dollar."  Basically, they put some buckets out every week and ask everyone to throw in a dollar. Then, they gather the money and wait to see what needs from the community come up. The beautiful thing, though, is it's not a church program that's run by the ministry staff. It's an "everybody gets to play" kind of thing. It's about all of us being in relationships with people who need the Kingdom to come in their lives. Any member of the Skyline family can call and say, "I know someone who needs...," then they get to deliver the money and spread a little Kingdom. I love that!

The first week, we helped a single mom get her car fixed so she could get herself and her kids where they needed to go without walking in -2 degree misery. This week, we helped a single mom with 7 kids and her disabled mother pay rent for another month.

The Kingdom came. And it brought joy.

And now my heart is stirred and my eyes are open, looking for opportunities to share the Kingdom that's already here and waiting anxiously for the day it comes FULLY. I can't even begin to imagine how super fantabulous it's going to be.

Bring it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Whip My Budget Into Shape

I think everyone has at least one thing in life they battle against. One area where you constantly fight for control. There are some seasons when you find yourself mastering that thing and it feels amazing, but then you start getting comfortable and that thing creeps back in and before you know it, it has you under it's ugly thumb all over again.

For me & Ron, that thing is money management. We've been fighting that monster since we got married 17 years ago. We've made some atrocious decisions along the way, and we've made some really good ones. But no matter how many steps forward we take, the monster is always there ready to drag us backwards again (I can't even count how many times I've reset my progress map in Dave Ramsey-land).


This is a new year! And the difference between this year and every other year before is my one word:

DETERMINATION - Deciding it's worth it to finish what you've started.

It's worth it to make a budget that works. Life and marriage and parenting are all much less stressful when you're not worried about how you're going to buy groceries to cover the next eight days until payday because on the last payday you went to Red Lobster because you were tired of eating Mac & Cheese for a week straight. (Are we alone in this?)

Food is the big killer in our budget for several reasons, and I think the biggest one is that I HATE TO COOK!  I'm not good at it and I'd rather do just about anything instead. After a long day of work and driving the kids all over town, I just want to hit a drive-thru and be done with it. And we often do, thus blowing our food budget to pieces.

So, one of the practical steps I'm taking to stick to the budget this year is menu planning. Revolutionary, I know. My sweet friend, Melissa, made me this awesome Menu board for my kitchen. My kids think it's the greatest thing ever and insist on having it filled in at all times.

I'm not promising it will be filled with amazing meals, or even healthy ones (one step at a time, folks) but it will be filled in. I am determined to make a plan and stick to it. I found a great website that does Menu Plan Mondays where they have recipes for a week's worth of meals plus printable coupons for some of the ingredients. And there are tons of other helpful sites for busy moms who don't like to cook.

So, I declare here and now that this is the year the Crawfords will whip the budget into shape, whip the budget into shape (and yes, I will sing that like Willow Smith) especially in the food category.

Will we still eat out? Heck, yes! But it will be part of the plan and written on the menu board. :)

How about you? What's the one thing you battle and what are you going to do to beat it this year?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One Word 2011

I can't believe 2010 is gone! I'm sure I feel this way at the beginning of every year, but last year seemed to blow by in a turbo-speed blur more than any other. Is this because I'm getting older? I'm going with NO on that, but it probably does have something to do with the fact that my babies are growing into full-sized humans right before my eyes, which is bittersweet.

I've never been good at keeping New Year's resolutions, so I stopped making them a few years ago. But I do like to look back and reflect on things -- the highs and lows, the moments where God showed up in a big way, the things I accomplished, and the things I'd like to improve -- then allow my heart to hope and dream for even bigger things in the year ahead.

So when I came across OneWord2011 on Kevin's blog, I decided it was exactly what I wanted to do. The idea is to choose one word that will shape you for the year. One word that can serve as a filter in every area of your life instead of making a list of resolutions that will be abandoned by this time next week, leaving us to feel like failures (again!). And I already had a word that had been resonating in my heart, so this felt like the perfect thing.

My one word is actually borrowed from my 7 year-old's latest Sunday school lesson, but I think that just makes it even better because she and I will be growing in it together .

My one word is determination.

According to Corban's take-home papers, the definition of determination is "deciding it's worth it to finish what you've started." 

That's what I want to be in 2011. A finisher. Not a sloppy finisher, but one who finishes well.

This word applies to so many areas of my life...

I'm determined to be more generous. I want to give like crazy this year and stop trying to hold too tightly to things that really don't matter.

I'm determined to speak from my heart. As an introvert, it's easy to think wonderful things about the people in my life (I do it all the time), but it's not quite as easy to say that stuff out loud to the people who need to hear it.  This year, I want to speak more words of encouragement and affection, especially to my sweet husband and kids.

I'm determined to be a better mother.  I did ok as a mom in 2010, but there is one glaring error that took me smack out of the running for Mom of the Year. I did not throw a party for Corban's 7th birthday. I have all kinds of excuses for why I didn't, but none of those matter to her. All she knows is that it's January and her birthday was in November, for crying out loud! BUT it's a new year and I'm determined to throw that girl a party. And that might actually put me on the short list for MOTY 2011 because she'll be the only kid who will have TWO birthday parties in one year.

I'm determined to whip our budget into shape.  We've been taking baby steps to financial peace for years (yes, I heart Dave Ramsey), but I'm determined to make a budget that really works for us and pay off the rest of our debt.

I'm determined to grow my business. I want to coach more women and clean fewer homes. There's a whole lot of stuff that has to happen for me to be able to do that, but I'm learning as I go and have great support and mentoring from Lance and the rest of the Bloom team.

I'm determined to chase a new dream. A new dream took hold of me in 2010, so I'm determined to take some practical steps to see it come to life. Sorry for being vague about this one, but I'm not ready to be accountable for it to all of cyberland just yet.  New dreams can be very fragile, you know. :)

Those are just a few of the things I'm determined to do this year. And I'm confident God will give me His grace to do them because...

"God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won't stop before it is complete..."  Philippians 1:6

What hopes and dreams are in your heart for 2011? Do you have one word?