Sunday, February 26, 2017

What a Pit Bull and a Fracture have taught me

It was a run like any other, except at the end. I left my house and I covered my mileage. I took a selfie and I was on the process of sending it to my family in Brazil when I heard some chatter from far away. I lifted my eyes to see a man across the street talking to his pit bull who was coming in my direction.

If you know me well, you know I’m not a dog person. I dread the possibility of running into stray dogs during my runs. I trust most people keep their dogs locked in but as I experienced that day, pit bulls wonder away from their owners. I had no time to be scared so I immediately started praying. The pit bull was acting friendly and you guessed it, his owner was still on the other side of the street acting like the dog was going to return on its own. I kept going my way and the friendly pit bull was following me. Still, no owner. By that time I had finished my prayer so I decided to stop walking because I didn’t want that dog to follow me all the way home. The dog owner finally comes over and puts a leash on the dog. He doesn’t address me at all so I say loudly with a tone of relief “Thank you and have a blessed day.” Surrounding people in their cars are amazed by the whole thing and they smile big at me, I go on my way.
This was not the dog I encountered: it was way bigger than this!
I find out what’s inside my heart during those moments I don't have time to be scared. There’s a Bible verse in Psalm 56:3 that says “when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” The thing is, sometimes stuff happens so quick you don’t have time to be afraid. I learned that it is wise to have a foundation of trust for times like this.

I wish I could tell you my story was over. I went home and proceeded to have a normal family day. My husband took the kids to an outing in the park and I stayed at home doing homework. He called me and told me that our son hurt his arm while playing. I found myself facing another unexpected pit bull. After I took in the information he gave me, I dropped to my knees and I prayed to the Father. I can’t remember everything I said but I remember declaring my absolute trust in Him. I got up from that prayer thinking, “God’s for us.”
My husband took my son to the ER and after an x-ray they said his arm was fractured. We were thankful that our son had minimal pain as he came back home on a sling.

While I was waiting to hear what was going on with our son, I reached out to a few friends who prayed for our son. I went on to prepare our family for the weekend and an amazing trust filled my heart and mind. It was as if I was a different person. I can't take credit for any of it except for insisting in reading the Bible and getting to know the God I worship better.

Friends, I learned twice in one short day how sometimes you can’t predict what kind of pit bulls will come my way. All I can do is to have my trust on the right Person. I make my words the words of Psalm 31:14:

“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.””

God can handle any pit bull that comes my way. That’s a proven fact.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

10 ways to celebrate Jesus during Easter



Easter is coming friends. For this Christian stay-at-home wife and mother, this means "the super bowl of all Christian holidays" is right around the corner. Every year I've tried not to confuse my kids so my search for the ideal Easter season experience continues.

We all know that Easter has been commercialized. My youngest is 4 so when we go to the store, I have the habit of asking her, "what is Easter all about?" and she tells me "Jesus." Then we proceed to look at the Easter decorations. We agree that most of the things we see are not directly related to the reason for the season. While we are not boycotting anyone nor trying to be kill joys, we do try to find what works for our family. Here's what has worked in the past 9 years:

1. Read Bible passages related to Easter - we stick with the Gospels and we read straight from the Bible most of the time. It is important to me that they hear the words of life straight from the source. The less I use other books, the better it is. I don't want them to have to relearn a story they can know correctly since childhood. When using the Bible, I am speaking to their spirits as well as to their minds. Their spirits because that's how God created all of us. The words of life are deposited there and stay there bearing fruit for a life time. Their minds because they are kids so I answer whatever questions they have in a way they can understand. 

2. We watch cartoons about Easter - I have found that some cartoons are better than others. I curate them (I know, I'm serious about my screen time) and we have found some are closer to the Bible than others. There are many options on YouTube and I have found some great ones in the store for $5. My thought is, we can watch other cartoons any time during the year. Easter is about Jesus so we hope to honor Him even with our TV watching. Do my kids watch other stuff during Easter? Absolutely. My goal is to be sure that we watch the Eater stories more often during this season. It's all about building up for the big Resurrection Day.

3. We create our own Easter Play - this is no big production but we have so much fun reenacting the Triumphal entrance. I am yet to find a local (Jesus centered) Easter play we can attend, so we have had a lot of fun doing our own Eater play. I think that the details of the Bible stay with the kids if we reenact them in a play. The kids are the actors, the audience and the costume designers. Great fun! 

4. We attend a local Easter Egg Hunt - if someone from out of Space dropped in the America I know during Easter, they'd find MILLIONS of Easter Egg Hunts. I'm not opposed to them for I attend them with my kids. I do my usual candy confiscation (are you serious? We're not gonna get cavities on Easter!) and I assure the kids that the Bible stories we read have nothing to do with the activity we are attending. I also assure them that Jesus loves to have fun and so do we. 
Easter Sunday 2014
5 - We go to church on Easter - and we don't stop that good habit after Easter day is over. The excitement continues throughout the year. Our pastor wisely reminds that every day of the year is a great day to celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive. 

6 - We don't focus on new clothes - I noticed a few years ago that new clothes were quite the focus of the American culture I came to belong to. I feel compassion for people who can't afford such things. While I am blessed to have new things to wear, I make sure that I embrace that fact that Jesus doesn't require new clothes for worship on Easter or on any Sunday of the year. He does want to give us a new heart. 

7 - We prepare a special Easter Meal - I say special because unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas we don't have a set menu but we do make it special. One year I baked a cute cake for the kids. I can't remember what I did last year but the goal is to get our family around our table to break bread as we thank God for the victory of Jesus.

8 - We have Communion as a Family - my husband leads communion and the kids love the the experience. I think we do that the Friday before Easter. It's a joy to remember what Jesus did for us and why He sacrificed His life.

9 - We teach something new - While the kids have been listening to the Gospel for many years, I intentionally teach something new every year. It's the same story but I might choose to emphasize a different part every year. Better than that, I ask them what is the new thing they learned that they didn't know last year. I do this as an adult and it is fascinating. 

10 - We prepare our hearts - All the outside preparations shy in view of what God really requires of us during this season. He's after our hearts. I hope to lead this one by example. I don't require my kids to fast or to do anything outside of our "organic" way of living for Christ. I do know that God wants my heart ready for the blessings of this season and I want to be an example to my kids on how a prepared heart is the key ingredient for celebrating Jesus during Easter. 

• What are some of your special ways of celebrating Jesus with your family during Easter?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dissolving Friendships


I wish some friendships would last forever but they do dissolve. In chemistry,  Dissolving is the process in which  molecules interact and attract each other to form a Solution. Dissolving depends on the molecules of the substance doing the dissolving, called the solvent, and the molecules of the substance being dissolved, called the solute. I propose that Friendship is the Solute and Distance, Conflict and Poison are the Solvent.

Distance 
I don't agree with most of the quotes about distance never affecting friendships. If I relied on all the friendships I left I Brazil for my total well-being, I'd dry out like a thirsty plant in the summer heat. Distance is a friendship solvent because without the face-to-face, deep connection, friendships may become shallow. I find it is difficult to share my heart through a screen. I need face-to-face interaction for the bonding of friendship to entail.

Conflict 
This my friends is the most common solvent of friendships. The source might be an offense, rivalry or even a conflict of interest. When it comes to dissolving friendships, the source of conflict can be overt or covert. I know some people won't clash with their friend so having a hidden conflict feels safer. The reality is the friendship is well in the dissolving process.  
 
Poison 
You'd think that a toxic friendship would be an obvious friendship solvent but we all know people who have agreed not to end bad relationships and just be exposed to poison a little while longer. Toxic friendships are a great solvent. The question is, how do you get to the best Solution?

You guessed it, Forgiveness is the best solution. It does not mean that by choosing to forgive you are stuck in a dying friendship that feels like trying to hold oil with your bare hands. My suggestion for positively dissolving the solvents we discussed are:

  1. Distance - Seek new friendships in your new home. One of the best blessings I've received from God were the friends I've made in the US. While I dearly love my friends from Brazil, we no longer live in the same place, which makes our deep connection more challenging. I have learned that in order for friendships to grow and thrive, I need to invest in people I can see and touch. Finding new friends is not easy but when you succeed, it is rewarding. 
  2. Conflict - The best advice I can give you is to find great wisdom as you move out of conflict. I've had an overt conflict with a person in my past and I did the hard work of getting Christian counseling, choosing to forgive and although that person never changed, the nature of our relationship did. I have learned that sometimes, normalcy is the best destination to a rocky friendship road. 
  3. Poison - All toxic friendships are unique but here's the thing about poison: at some point, you will have to deal with the consequences. Even a little bit of poison is lethal. The question I ask myself is, how long will I put up with this? The great thing about the nature of God is that even in these tough situations, there are healthy ways to find great solutions. Wisdom for your particular situation will guide you in the way of peace. I highly recommend you to find wise counselors who have been where you are. They have the wisdom of years, compassion and understanding to offer. I know it's tough but toxic friendships can end well. 

I wish some friendships would last forever but they do dissolve. Forgiveness is the best solution because it immediately places you at your place of peace. Where your peace is there you will find your power to continue to live with hope for stronger, meaningful friendships. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Exit Social Media the SMART way


So, you're leaving that Social Media platform again? Okay. I want to help you do it in a more strategic way. Let's jump right to it friend. 

1. Do NOT announce your exit - I don't know if anyone told you this but that's the lamest thing you can possibly do. Most of your friends roll their eyes when they read that you are leaving a particular social media platform because we all know you're coming back... with a vengeance! It's really funny to watch the trend. You may post: "friends I'm leaving this platform and I'll see you or won't!" If you could hear the other side of the screen you'd hear that slow 80s clap as well as the sound of your friends scrolling down to see what's really interesting in their feed. Whatever you do, please do not announce your exit. You may be wondering how would your thousands of followers find you in case of an emergency. I'd have to tell you that when people want to get a hold of you they are smart enough to figure out just how. 

2. Plan a S.M.A.R.T. exit - if you are abandoning the social media ship, make it S.M.A.R.T.:
S - Specific - how long will you be gone and why? If this is a forever thing, erase the app and forget about the website. If you know you're coming back, agree on a timetable and the goal of your exit. 
M - Meaningful - why are you leaving? Is the platform consuming your life or are you just pissed with some of your online friends? Are you leaving because your real life benefit from the time you are mindlessly browsing? Make it meaningful, make it work for you. 
R - Results oriented - Knowing your "why" comes in handy right here. If working on a real life project (such as your new year's goals) is the reason of your exit, be sure that you have your goal in mind. Think, "I will exit for ___ amount of time to write my book." Make it work for you every time my friend. 
A - Achievable - If 80% of your job includes social media management, we all know you can't possibly have a true social media exit. Be specific about what you would like to achieve and be sure your goals match that thought. If you are one of those folks who must be on Social Media because it is part of your job, maybe you need to recalibrate your usage. Reassessing your work goals comes in handy in this instance. 
T - time-bound - Because Social Media is not going anywhere (thus the fact that most exit announcements flunk) it is wise to give yourself a timeline for your exit. Do you need 10 days off? Do you need to erase the app for a few weeks until you reach that career oriented goal? Do you need to leave forever? You get to decide. 

3 - Get ready for withdraws - give yourself some grace because you will likely have withdraws. If you know that you will be tempted to see who Liked your "I'm leaving all y'all" post (I told you not to do that!), erase the App. Expect withdraws but commit to your plan. 

4 - Start Small - If you are going to have a successful social media exit, start really small and then move on to larger chunks. Remember that you must have a solid goal for this thing to work, it needs to work for you, not for the people who will be possibly rolling their eyes and giving you the 80s slow clap as you announce your exit again

Social Media is not going anywhere but you are. You have goals, you have dreams and I understand that sometimes you need a break to recalibrate. Do yourself a favor and plan a silent exit this time. Let me know how it works! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lake Junaluska Ski Weekend 2017

I'm feeling very hopeful about the generation of young people I saw this past weekend. My husband and I had a chance to lead worship and speak at the last Lake Junaluska Ski Weekend for the season. 
A few of the amazing youth we met last weekend at Lake Junaluska
What I saw was a generation of generous, joyful and committed Christian young men and women. The world is already a better place because God created this generation of world changers. 

Our theme for the weekend was "Do Something" based on Matthew 25:31-40. We had so much fun talking about how clearly see Jesus so we can do something for Him. 

It was also a great honor to be back at the place where my family started. My husband and I got married at Lake Junaluska and two of our kids were born in the area. We were so incredibly blessed to visit many friends who became family. I enjoyed worshipping with our NC church family. Every little corner we saw brought a different, good memory. I am so glad we had a chance to come back and enjoy North Carolina. 

Back to the young people, if you are feeling bad about the world, you should connect with a youth group and pour out your wisdom into them. It blessed me to be surrounded by so much joy and enthusiasm about making a difference for Christ. 

I was also reminded that Christian camp rocks and my kids are attending for sure when they grow up. 

If you have never heard of Lake Junaluska, go to www.lakejunaluska.com and book a trip. You don't have to be signed up for an event to enjoy the Lake, you can come whenever you'd like. The Terrace Hotel has recently been renovated and the place looks even better. There are also other options for lodging and meals. Trust me, you will love your Junaluska experience.

Have an amazing week and remember to keep hope alive friends!