Monday, January 6, 2014

Kenya Bound

Ever since she can remember, my daughter, Katie, has had a heart for the people of Africa. For years she has expressed a passion to travel there and work with the children. While there was never a doubt in my mind that she would one day travel there, in my wildest dreams I would not have imagined she would travel there at 13 years old… nor would I have imagined I would be going with her! It was never in MY plan to go on a foreign mission – I always considered southeast Virginia my mission field – but, clearly, God has other plans. And I’ve found that when God calls, it’s a good idea to answer.

In August of 2014, both Katie and I have the thrilling opportunity to be a part of our church’s mission trip to Kenya. We will travel with a team from Atlantic Shores Baptist Church and will work with children sponsored by Project Lucas. While there, we will work with orphans who live in extreme poverty, children who are affected by HIV/AIDS and related diseases, and most importantly, we will share the unconditional love of Christ.
Our financial responsibility for this trip is $6,200 ($3,100 each). To me, this seems unattainable for a single-income family living paycheck to paycheck. But to God, I imagine he's simply smiling and saying, "Unattainable? We'll see about that..."

Case in point: In December, I decided to crochet scarves in hopes of raising some money for our trip. Within five days, I had over 60 orders. To date, I have sold over 80 scarves, I still have more orders coming in, and we've raised well over $400 (probably more than that, but I haven't done he final accounting yet). We say impossible, God says possible. (We've also opened an Etsy shop - Mama Mary & Me!)

We still have about $5,000 left to raise over the next few months, and while my crochet speed has increased greatly, I don't think I can make enough scarves or hats to raise that much money. With that, I would like to ask you to prayerfully consider supporting us. Every dollar gets us that much closer to our goal, so please don't think that any amount is too small. (Checks should be made payable to Atlantic Shores Baptist Church and are fully tax deductible. Please see below for more specific instructions.)

If you are unable to help us financially at this time, your prayers are greatly coveted and desired! Specifically, you can pray that, even now, hearts will be prepared for His message, that our team will be unified for His purposes, and that we will be open to what God wants to teach us!

If you would like to send a check or a donation through Paypal, please email me here to get the specific information. You can also make donations online by clicking HERE. Please note that only contributions given directly to Atlantic Shore Baptist Church are tax deductible.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about our trip!

If you'd like to follow our progress, you can check out our Facebook page.

Below is a song that has been an inspiration for me to do more...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Struggle with Selfishness

The struggle with selfishness starts early. Before we can talk, really. As soon as a baby starts becoming possessive of her toys, we, as parents, start thinking about the best way to teach her to share. Do we take it away? Do we let her feel that sense of ownership? Do we start the battle now or when she’s older and able to be more reasonable?

Then she becomes a teenager (or at least starts acting like one). She may be compassionate and giving and sweet… she may be moody and sassy… she may be diligent and hardworking… she may be funny and confident and outgoing… but she, just like you and me, will struggle with selfishness to some degree for the rest of her life.

I was recently reading Acts chapter 7. Stephen is testifying before the Sanhedrin and summarizes the story starting from God telling Abraham to “leave your country and your people and go to the land I will show you,” through Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers, to Moses  leading the Israelites out of Egypt and away from a life of slavery, sent by God Himself! Verse 36 says, “He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.” The Israelites experienced some pretty amazing things and were well take care of, yet they continued to grumble and complain and forsake the God who brought them out of slavery. In verse 41, Stephen continues by saying, “That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor what their hands had made.”

They “held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.” This hit me like a brick… or maybe it was more like a load of bricks. Either way, it hit me hard! How often do we do that? How often do we celebrate our accomplishments and pat ourselves on the back and say, “Look what I’ve done!” We celebrate promotions, graduations, good grades, buying a home or new car, our creative works… We give ourselves glory and take pride in what we have done.

This is what I finally realized. I’ve spoken this before, but it’s taken a long time to truly grasp it… everything I do is only because God gave me the gifts to do it. Everything I have is only because God gave me the ability to make the money to buy it. Nothing is mine. But so often I treat it as though it is.

A few weeks ago my daughter told me she should be able to do pretty much anything in her room because it was her room. I corrected her and told her this was my house and, therefore, it was my room. End of discussion. As I was walking away, the Holy Spirit hit me upside the head. DARN IT! I’m teaching my daughter how to be selfish. In that one moment, I was showing her that these worldly possessions have a hold over me and her and our family.

I turned around and headed back to her room. I apologized and told her I was wrong. I told her that the house we live in doesn’t belong to her, me, or even daddy – our house belongs to God, and He has entrusted us with these worldly possessions. Our house, cars, furniture, clothes, food – it’s all blessings from a God who loves us more than we can imagine (unless you can imagine giving up the life of your child for the sake of another… personally, I can’t).

I like to think that I’m not a selfish person. I give of my time and treasure, I make meals for friends, I let people go ahead of me in the grocery line, I donate to missionaries… but every time I think of something as mine – like I deserve it or have earned it – I’m not giving God the glory He deserves, and I’m not teaching my daughter the right lessons. I know I’m not the only reason she struggles with selfishness – it’s part of our innate sinful nature; but I know I can be a better example.

Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My prayer is that I can be an example to my daughter of a woman who seeks and stores up heavenly treasures, not selfishly holding on to those earthly possessions. While I want my daughter to be able to enjoy nice things and special comforts, I pray that those earthly things never become a treasure to her and that she looks upon those things as great blessings – not as things she feels she deserves or has earned… because if we truly got what we deserved, there would be nothing heavenly about our existence. Here’s the thing… Jesus didn’t deserve to die. He took our place, took on our sin (being sinless himself), and died so that we may live. There was nothing selfish about that.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Do Mean the Maypole, right?

While this is an extreme example, I was shocked
to find this photo online. Do they really make
fishnets for babies?
A recent controversy making headlines regarding a new exercise class available to children in Canada has captured my attention.  You’re probably wondering how exercise could be bad for our children. Exercise is good, right? Heck, many of us often encourage our children to exercise. “Go out and play!” “Go ride your bike.” “Take a hike!”  (Well, the last one might not necessarily be referring to exercise…)

What I’m talking about here is pole dancing for kids. Yes, you read that correctly - an exercise class to teach pole dancing to kids. What kinds of pictures does that conjure up in your mind? It can’t be good, right?
I know that pole dancing classes for adults have come into popularity over the years, and they claim it’s a great workout to build upper body and core strength. While I don’t doubt this is true, I honestly can’t believe that most women (or men) would take this class simply for that reason (if they are being completely honest).
Let’s keep in mind that I’ve never seen pole dancing in person. The only images I have of pole dancing are the ones I’ve seen in movies and television shows where the guys are hanging out in a strip club.  That statement right there shows that I have a skewed view of this activity. To me, pole dancing is overtly sexual in nature; an activity to objectify women for the sexual pleasure of men. So, why, then, would I want to encourage my child to participate in this so-called exercise?
Out of curiosity, I did a Google search for pole dancing.  The first link is to Wikipedia where it gives the definition as follows:  Pole dance is a form of performing art, a combination of dance and gymnastics. It involves dancing and performing acrobatic tricks with a vertical pole and is an increasingly popular form of fitness and dance, practiced by many enthusiasts in gyms or dedicated dance studios.”  Is this the first vision that pops into your head when you think of pole dancing? Not mine. And it still doesn't convince me it's a child-appropriate activity.
The second link was a little bit more of what I expected… a link to a video of a scantily-clad woman promoting her pole dancing proficiency. While her physical abilities were impressive, her appearance and overall demeanor was anything less than wholesome.
At this point I switched over to the images portion of Google to get quick overview of what the general population will see if they wanted to get a look at pole dancing.  Needless to say, the large majority of images were sexual in nature. And even if they weren’t truly meant to be viewed that way, you can’t tell me a guy is going to look at a girl wearing VERY little hanging from a pole and admire her for her physical ability and strength.
OK, here’s the thing...
It seems to me that society in general has bought into the whole idea that objectifying women is OK. We find clothing and undergarments geared toward young girls that are made to draw attention to the rear end or the chest. We find push-up bras for tweens; short shorts with “sassy” scrawled across the booty; shirts shouting “naughty” or other such sayings across the upper body. Now, someone got the "bright" idea that pole dancing is a normal activity in which children should participate. 
When our girls actually do start to truly develop into their God-given, womanly shape, we’re surprised when we see them bending over their webcam in their bedroom taking a picture for all to see with their cleavage exposed. Well, there may be parents who aren’t so surprised… or upset.
I actually know parents who encourage their girls to dress in ways that I, personally, would consider provocative (I dare say Jesus wouldn’t find it too savory, either, but I’m just guessing).  Short skirts or shorts, tight, low-cut, cleavage-exposing shirts – all for the sake of fitting in or wanting them to look “feminine.”  I had one young teen tell me her father actually encourages her to shop at Victoria’s Secret, because he wants her to look feminine.  To me this just shouts, “I am an object! I am not to be respected!”
As parents, shouldn’t we want our daughters to be cherished and respected? Admired for their heart and character? Or do we want boys (and men) to look at them with lust?
Fathers – do you want your daughters to be the object of a boy’s physical desire?  Hello? Do you remember being a teenage boy? Or would you rather a boy be attracted to her for her character and desire to serve God?
As Christian parents, should we hold our children to a godly standard or to a worldly standard? What eternal sacrifices are we making for the sake of being accepted by the world?
1 Peter 3:2 says “Let them see how pure you are. Let them see that your lives are full of respect for God.  While this is directed to wives, ultimately, shouldn’t we be showing this to our daughters? Should our daughters act one way when they are single and another when they are married? Are we, as mothers, setting the right example for our daughters?
It comes down to this. Whether it is pole dancing, hip-thrusting cheer moves, or low-cut shirts with pushup bras, it all leads to the objectification of women and girls which is then followed by a lack of respect. God created both man and woman in His image. He created woman as a “helpmeet” – a helper and a partner. He did not create women to be the object of many a man’s desire.
I’ll end with this:
1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Breaking down the walls... literally!

I've been a blog slacker. I know. I can't help it. We have some issues with the house that I'm trying to tackle, and it's been a bit of a challenge.

This is my bathroom... well, actually, bathroomS.  This view is from one bedroom through one bathroom into the other bathroom.  We had a long-term, rather significant leak in the wall where you can see the knobs, and it saturated the floors in both bathrooms. AND there is a leak in the other bathroom, too.

Anyway, with each piece of wall I take down, I find mold and rotted wood.  So, what was going to be a "simple" floor replacement is turning into a complete gutting of both bathrooms from floor to ceiling.  We have to take out walls and replace them, replace plumbing, electrical... UGH!

Oh, and did I mention we have termites? Not in the house, thankfully. They have invaded our backyard and are eating the stumps of some trees we had cut down. Next stop?  The house. (Yes, we're going to get it treated to protect it.)

In all of this, I'm trying hard to remain thankful and positive, and I'm praying for some sort of miracle. Seriously. I don't know what kind of miracle, but something. A money tree? Super hero home improvement abilities? A wrecking ball?

Do you think I could go from the mess above to the beauty in this picture?  Probably not on our budget, but almost anything will be better than how things look right now.

OK, here's the thing...

Please keep me and my family in your prayers as we continue with this project. We're asking specifically for good health and a wise use of the resources God has provided for us. Oh, and no more surprises!!

I think this is also a good time to throw in, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13. (Too bad this isn't referring to muscles, too!)