Saturday, February 24, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Mission Trips

On April 30, 2017, the town of Van Buren, Missouri experienced a flood. The Current River crested at 37 feet (8 feet above the record set in 1904). 

The water ran through town and into about 185 houses, destroying 55 of them. Many businesses were lost.

A group of us from Allison drove down on Sunday to help with repairs in two houses. We worked with World Renew (who partnered with Catholic Charities) and did as much as we could to help two homeowners this week.

Here's most of our group with Kathy (front, in white) on the first day. Three more workers came on Wednesday night.
Some of us worked mostly in Kathy's house. She only had ten minutes to get out of her house once she became aware of the danger. She grabbed a few things and left, thinking it wouldn't be too bad...but her house ended up filling with at least five feet of water on the main floor (about eight feet in the garage). 

We worked hard all week, putting mud on the walls and taping some spots, putting up drywall in some spots, sanding, and cleaning up messes. Some of our group did plumbing and electrical work. Whatever Billy Moses (our supervisor) told us to do, we did. He was right in there working with us all week long.

Gary and I worked together to put in a new bathtub.
The girls learned to mud, too - they worked so hard and did a great job!
Rosemary stopped mudding for a second to humor me with a smile. She also lined up
(and cooked) delicious meals for us all week long.
I learned to tape corners. What do you think?
Gary never expected to be mudding this week - but he did lots of it!
Some of our group worked next door in Dale Brown's house. It was farther along. He was living in it already, but the group completed putting in flooring and did some painting and trim work (among other things). 
Some of our group put in flooring and painted in Dale Brown's house.
It was so rewarding to talk with these homeowners and see their gratefulness for the work we did. We, in turn, were blessed by hearing their stories and seeing their faith in action.

Of course, the work was only part of the trip. We also ate delicious meals, played games together, had devotions each evening and sang together, and laughed a ton.

To be honest, I was a little nervous before we left on Sunday. I didn't know if I was ready to get out of my comfort zone and leave all of the things I "should" be doing back in Allison.

I'm so glad I came. I've hardly thought about the things back at home (it will all be waiting for me tomorrow). 

It was wonderful to get to know the people in our group better.

It was refreshing to spend a little time in the Bible most mornings and listen to what God had to say to me.

It was rewarding to help people who had lost almost everything.

It was fun to try new things (mudding, taping, and stilts).

My attempt at stilt walking didn't last too long. (Three steps forward and three steps back to the ladder!)
If you ever have the chance to go on a mission trip, I urge you to take advantage of it. We can all find a hundred excuses for not going, but there are lots of good reasons to go.

We found out that we didn't have to go very far to do some hard work for people who needed it. All of us are going to look around in our own communities and try to keep meeting needs once we get back home.

Sometimes you have to get away to be reminded of what's really important.

"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." (Psalm 96:3 NIV)

Have you ever gone on a mission trip? How can focusing on God help you to see the needs of others - both far away and close to home?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Hidden Pandas

I worked at the daycare this afternoon (not the unhealthy helping I talked about last week - just a few hours this time). 

I got home and made supper. As I was walking around the kitchen, Allison asked, "Why is there a panda on your back?"

"A panda on my back?!" I exclaimed. "I have no idea!" Then I ran to get a mirror and see what she was talking about. Sure enough, I had been running around for hours with a panda sticker on my back.
Not the kitchen - I had Gary take a picture later.

 "Those kids!" I fumed. I wondered which one of those little stinkers had slapped a panda on my back when I wasn't suspecting it. 

Was it the one who had come up and given me a sweet little hug? I thought I noticed a smirk on her face as she went back to play.
A closer view of the hidden (from me) panda
Or was it the one who was running circles around me as I chanted "walking feet, walking feet!"

I wasn't really mad, of course, but it did get me thinking. 

What else do people see on (or in) me that I can't see?

Do they see pride? or laziness? or judgment? 

Do they see someone who is too worried about herself to truly care about and get to know others?

Do they see someone who says she'll do something, but then it takes forever to see the task get accomplished?

Do they see good things that I refuse to acknowledge most of the time - like creativity, talent, and potential?

I had no idea I had a panda on my back until my daughter pointed it out. 

We need to be willing to let people point out the "pandas" we can't see in our lives. Those may be bad habits or personality traits we need to change...or they could be wonderful things about ourselves that we need to embrace and develop.

If we ask, God will gently point out the "hidden pandas" on our backs. The Holy Spirit will either urge us to get rid of them or He'll encourage us to enjoy them and grow emotionally or spiritually.

I looked for an image to use for my graphic this week and was surprised to learn that "hidden panda" is a thing. Apparently at the end of 2015 someone drew a picture of snowmen with a hidden panda that frustrated people to no end.

Since then, there have been many other "hidden panda" pictures to challenge people's skills of observation.

Can you find the hidden panda in my title graphic? (I put the reveal picture at the end of this post in case you need it)

Let's all search for the hidden pandas in our own lives. And if you're ever around a group of preschoolers, remember to watch your back!

"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

Do you think you might have any "hidden pandas" in your life? How can focusing on God help you to see them clearly?

Scroll down to see the hidden panda reveal picture...


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Unhealthy Helping

This is a tough one to write.

I'm afraid I'll be misunderstood. (It's inevitable because I hardly understand it myself.)

"Normal" people will not understand this problem because they have healthy boundaries and a good sense of self-worth. They can stop reading right now because this week's post will not apply to them.

For the rest of you, I'm hoping this post will help all of us get to more healthy ways of helping others.

I had a long day yesterday.

I went down to our church daycare a little before 6:00 a.m. because we had gotten quite a bit of snow overnight. I wanted to be there to help get the day started and assess the situation with staff and kids.

I waded down there through the unplowed street and then up the unplowed parking lot. Our faithful opener had gotten a ride from her son, so she was already there getting ready for whatever the day held.

School was going to be two hours late, and later they cancelled it completely.

We didn't have many kids scheduled, so I called one staff person not to come and told another not to come when she called to check on the situation. Some kids didn't come at all, but we got a couple of extra ones because of the snow day.

I called another staff member who lived in town and had her come to help our opener. I settled in with the two children we had in the infants room. 

At 2:00 both of my kids had gone home, so I moved over to the Lions room so our opener could go home. After helping with snack time, the other staff person and her son went home, leaving me with six kids for the rest of the day.

It never occurred to me to ask someone else to come in and close. I just figured they deserved a snow day and a nice day at home. I didn't mind staying. (I really didn't!) We played Uno for a while and found other things to play with until all of the kids went home. I cleaned up a few things after they left, but our daughter Erin called while I was still there and she expressed shock that I had worked almost twelve hours that day - for free!

When I hung up from talking to her, I realized how beat I was and I left a few things undone and headed for home. I made supper and watched part of the opening ceremony for the olympics until I started nodding off, so I headed for bed.

Of course, I went back to the daycare today for a little while and finished my cleaning because I'm a responsible person, you know.

(Are you "normal" people still reading? I beg you not to judge me or write me off as some crazy person. I swear I'm in my right mind...I just have some problems with boundaries and "unhealthy helping.")

I had already been thinking about this topic for the last couple of weeks.

I like volunteering at the daycare - most of the time. 

I started doing it because the daycare was a little shaky financially and I could help by volunteering some time in the office and the rooms.

I kept doing it even after they got more stable financially and I pushed aside the offer to start paying me. I wanted to keep doing what I could to make the daycare's finances work well and I didn't want the pressure of being a paid staff person.

As a volunteer, I wasn't locked into a certain number of hours on the schedule each week (even though I averaged about nineteen hours a week in 2017).

It felt good to be such a big help to the daycare. I felt needed and important because I could fill in when they needed me. It was really fun at first to organize things in the office and keep track of records and stuff.

As time went by, it wasn't as much fun. I saw myself not getting certain things done and I felt bad because the records weren't in perfect order and I made mistakes sometimes. In other people's eyes I was doing fine, but in my own I was falling short.

I kept doing the job, but my heart wasn't in it anymore. Sometimes I would feel resentful that I was putting in so many hours, even though I'm the one who scheduled myself or said yes when someone needed a day off.

I started using the daycare as an excuse for not getting other things done at home. (housework, my writing projects, etc.)

I still heard "thank you" from other staff members and the board, but I also heard a couple of people express concern about the number of hours I was working. I wondered how many people thought I was just a wimp for working so much as a volunteer.

Like I said, I hardly understand all of this myself, but this week's post is an attempt to start to unravel it. I want to help and serve from a healthy, truly generous heart (and most days I do!) but I'm realizing that I've gotten to an unhealthy level of giving that needs to change in the weeks ahead.

The other staff are competent, caring, and conscientious. They don't "need" me as much as I sometimes think they do. It's time to back out to a healthier level and make sure I'm caring for myself and other things God has called me to do.

I've listed (after this post) a couple of online articles and a book I think I'm going to read soon as I continue to explore this topic and learn to help in healthy ways.

Helping isn't bad - we just have to make sure it's coming from a healthy place.
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Do you help in healthy or unhealthy ways? How can focusing on God help you to get to a healthier place if you tend to give too much?

"10 Signs That You Are Giving Too Much of Yourself" (from Amanda Itzkoff on

"12 Signs That You're Giving Too Much" (from Shawn Burn, PhD on

A book I plan to read soon: "Unhealthy Helping" by Shawn Burn, PhD

Friday, February 2, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Loving Ourselves

Loving ourselves.

As a Christian, I've been taught to love God, love others, and then love myself. (JOY = Jesus, Others, and You, right?)

I agree with that for the most part, especially loving God first. 

When it comes to loving others and loving ourselves, I think it can get a little confusing.

Some people have no problem at all loving themselves. They live selfish lives and think little of the people around them.

Some people love others in healthy ways and have a right attitude about themselves.

Other people can turn that around and be hyper-aware of others, constantly trying to serve and please the people around them. They live selfless lives and think very little of themselves.

Oh, I don't mean they don't think about themselves. If they're like me, they're probably thinking way too much about themselves.

What did she think about what I said in that meeting?

I should probably stay late today and finish the cleaning that he was supposed to do. 

Why doesn't anyone want to talk to me?

I wonder what I could do to help Harry and Sally get along better?

The thoughts can get worse than that:

I can't do anything right.

They must think I'm so stupid.

I'm so __________. (lazy, dumb, clumsy, fat, ugly, etc.)

People would be better off without me.

When our thought patterns echo with sentiments like these, we get into some very unhealthy places emotionally. We might do many things to help and serve other people, but too often it's coming from a place of desperate need, not a place of real love.

We need to learn to love ourselves as God loves us so that we can serve and love others from a healthy heart.

I've heard Susie Larson talk about how she went through a time when she felt like God was telling her to say, "God, you love me so much" whenever she started to say, "God, I love you so much."

It felt awkward at first, but as she kept repeating that phrase, she began to believe it.

I'm getting better, but I struggle with how I see myself. In fact, I really used to see myself kind of like this whenever I saw myself in a photograph: 
Everyone else looked fine, but I would see myself as this ugly stick figure person, usually hiding way in the back of a group.

Like I said, I'm getting better. I think I've trained myself to say, "Hey, I'm kind of cute" when I look at a picture of myself, instead of focusing on what I perceive as faults.

The Bible reminds us over and over again of how much God loves us. We need to believe that and accept ourselves as we are right now. God will keep changing and growing us in the years ahead, but there is no reason for us to punish, criticize, and hate ourselves right now for our mistakes and shortcomings.

We all add something beautiful to the pictures of life. Let's make sure we're loving ourselves so we can really love God and others.
Here I am, surrounded by my beautiful family

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..." (1 John 3:1 NIV)

Do you have any trouble loving yourself? How can focusing on God help you to love yourself and love others?