Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't You Wish I Was YOUR Mom........

A peaceful dinner outside........5:30pm, an hour and a half before I have to leave for the night for milk pickup and huddle..............

Sofia:  Mom, tomorrow they are announcing June birthdays.......can you make a treat for the class tomorrow for my birthday?

Mom: Ummm, it's a little late for that.

Sofia:  You KNEW about this mom.  You KNEW I would need a treat.

Mom:  When did you tell me?

Sofia:  REMEMBER?  At the beginning of the year?  I said that June birthdays would be now?

Mom:  So you told me eight months ago.............

Sofia: YES.

Mom:  Well, honey, it's a little late now.  Does it count that I just came in last week and made dirt pudding with the whole class and took them all out for extra recess?

Sofia: No.

Mom:  Well, how about the popsicles we just bought and took in when it was really hot?

Sofia: No.

Mom:  What about the snack we sent in when we did your "GO!" card?

Sofia:  No.

Mom:  Ok.  Ummmm, so are there other kids with June birthdays?  Maybe they will have a snack for your class.

Sofia: I am the ONLY ONE.

Mom.  Ok.  Ummm.........oh I have a GREAT idea.  So there are other kids celebrating June birthdays, right?  And they have to go to the front during morning meeting, right?  Well, when a kindergartener goes up and leaves their snack at their place, you just run over and grab their treat and skeedaddle back to your place.  No one will even notice.  Kindergarteners are always confused, just tell them that their birthday is really in September and they got it wrong.  Then you will have a treat for your class.  PERFECT PLAN.

Sofia (rolling her eyes in quite an exaggerated manner):  MOM.  NO.  THAT is not a great plan.

Nico (eyes HUGE, laughing hysterically):  That is a GREAT plan.

Mom:  Well, then, I guess no snack tomorrow.

Sofia:  Well, you better remember NEXT year.

Mom:  How about next year you remind me earlier than the night before and a little bit later than eight months before?  I still like my plan, though.

Sofia (EYES ROLL): Mom....................

Friday, May 24, 2013

What We Do

Yesterday, at the church, I was asked a question.

It's a question that has been asked before, particularly when meeting with leaders, and it's a good question.

But it always makes me stop and think.

It's kind of an intimidating question, one that I don't have an easy answer for or even a great answer.

"What do you do?" "What is your out?" "Who do you serve?"

They are looking for how do we identify ourselves, as a village/small church, as a person.  And I get that it's an easy question to ask.  I get that the people asking are doers, it's seems to be in their nature to ask the results type question.

"Family Village" - it sounds kind of quaint.  It doesn't have a flashy, movement-based name.  Our vision is to support/strengthen families and be a family to those connected to LoveCanton.  Again, nothing to suggest that we are action-oriented go-getters.

When they ask what do you do, what is your out?

I try to explain.

I try to tell them that for a year we created a base, a foundation.  We spent a year establishing our community and pouring into our people and then the body of LoveCanton.  I mention Baby Dedication and a funeral luncheon and other serving stuff, you can almost see the eyes glaze over.........but.........BUT

Here's the thing.

I am a parent.

I know that purely result-driven livin' is impossible.  It will burn you out.  It will destroy your spirit.  It will hinder actual growth, actual learning.  You may get quick results but you will not get lasting results.  (Every time I tried to "make" Sofia use the potty when she was 2 and then 3, it was COMPLETELY DEFEATING, she did it all by herself one day - the day she said she would.  Francesca was born, Fia brought the potty to the hospital, peed on it and wore underwear every day since.)

Every parent knows this.

We know that basing your self-worth on only the results? OH MY WORD.  That is no way to live.  It will demolish any sense of worth because you cannot control results.  You cannot control outcomes.  You cannot control people.  (Think of every public meltdown your child has had, think of every time you thought that this DEMON SPAWN COULD NOT BE THE FRUIT OF MY quickly learn not to tie up all of who you are in the acts of people - especially small ones :)

Every parent comes to realize this.

We know that results are hard-earned, never guaranteed and take months, even years, to see.  We know that the daily work is the hard work.  That the celebration at the end, the culmination?  One day of celebrating = 1095 days of tedious, every day, ordinary hard work.  (I believe this because I am a mom who every day reads to her children, talks to them, plays with them, cooks with them, shops with them in the hopes that one day....many, many years down the road they will remember these days and enjoy reading, cooking for their own family, take the time to talk with friends/family/spouses, etc. I will see the fruits of my daily living so far down the road but each day I know it's worth it.)

Ask any parent.

And so when they ask - what do you DO?

I try to explain.  I try to explain that we invest in people who will go out and invest in other people.  We gives parents a place to feel safe and ok when they are not perfect.  We give couples a place where they know that they will be supported and strengthened in the daily hard work of marriage.  We babysit each other's kids.  We mourn together.  We worship together.  We eat together.  We cry together.  We build one another up.  We pray together.  We invite people to join us.  We take Jesus to those outside our four walls.  We invite those with no families to join our families.  We love each other.  We love our neighbors.  We read the Word together.

I don't know how to quantify that.

And so when I am asked that question........I am reminded.

I reminded we are not building A church, we are building THE church.

I am reminded of our village members as they go out......taking the church to their neighborhoods, to their families, to their friends.  There are so many people experiencing the love of Jesus through our village members - middle school girls, next-door neighbors, moms, co-workers, kids, etc.  They are doing amazing things that most likely you will never hear about.  I can't point to any numbers or any building or any project or any great amount of money.

So what do we do?  What is our out?  Who do we serve?

We do Families.

We go out right where we are.

We serve God.

My village members?  They are doing Kingdom work - quietly, humbly, with no thought of recognition.  I have to admit..........they amaze me.  Every Sunday I get to walk into a room of leaders, of kingdom workers who are committed to doing the hard work, the daily work.  People who understand that the process is just as important as the results.

Love you all.  Thanks for continually showing up, trusting us and doing the work.

It's amazing to see glimmers of results after over a year of building our foundation.

Can't wait to see what the next year brings............................


Three days ago our preacher man sends out an e-mail saying Alan Hirsch is in town, speaking at this church for something or other and that we can go, if we want.  Just let him know and he'll make the arrangements so we can go.

Ummmm......YEAH, SIGN ME UP.

I have been slightly addicted to listening to different podcasts on my ipod lately and he's one of the guys I have been listening to and then quoting in conversations/teachings.  Plus I got to hear him speak a few months ago and so much of what he said really resonated with me and sparked in me the idea that I have a real and valued place within the church.

So.......yesterday I actually take a shower, put in my curlers, wear something other than my jeans and get ready to go out into the world of adults.  On my way out I grab a notebook, one of Francesca's, just in case I want to write something down - which I probably will because this is ALAN HIRSCH.  (I know I am so uncool.......I should not be this impressed by a man that probably few of you know, but I am.)

On my way there I call a friend and say I am a little bit nervous about going because the other folks that got the e-mail couldn't or didn't want to go and so I am just going to have to show up by myself.  The few other times I went to this church for stuff like this there are always a bunch of other people there that always seem to know WHAT. IS. GOING. ON. - like you can tell that they are probably important or, at least, know enough to look like they are important.

So I pull in to the church, stuff my notebook in my purse, along with a copy of "Cutting For Stone" because you NEVER know when you will have a few minutes of down time and I HATE being stuck without a book to read.  I walk in and it seems really quiet.  I think where are all the people?  I go upstairs to the room I have been in before - dark.  Totally quiet.  Hmmmm.......I better go ask someone at the front desk.

I go back down, hoping I didn't get the information wrong, and spot a lady in the hallway.

Me: "Ummm, I thought that it was suppose to be starting at 2:30?  Is that right?  Did I get the information wrong?"
Nice Lady: "Oh no!  It started about 15 minutes ago!  Just follow me, hopefully you didn't miss all of it."
Me: "Oh no.  Shoot.  Okay."
     (she starts hurrying me towards the classroom hallway.....I am a bit puzzled by this.)
Nice Lady: "The kindergarteners should be just finishing up."
      (Confusion.  Understanding.)
Me:  ", no, I am here to see Alan Hirsch."
       (Now the nice lady looks confused.)
Nice Lady: "Oh, ok.  Ummmm.......well, come this way."

She leads me to the elevator, points out where I should go and says that I look so young (HA!  I haven't been called young in forever!).   I start to think, at this point, that there is something that I am not getting.  I get off the elevator and there is a guy standing in front of a room - same look on his face as the lady - as if he can't quite figure out what I am doing here.  I say I am here to see/hear Alan Hirsch and walk into NOT A BIG ROOM AT ALL BUT A QUITE SMALLISH ROOM THAT IS FILLED WITH MIDDLE-AGED MEN WHO ALL HAVE THAT LOOK OF I AM SOMEONE IMPORTANT.

It is then that I sit down and start furiously texting Preacher Man, using many capital letters and exclamation points.

There is one other woman in the room.

Apparently she heads something or other for a network of churches.  She tells me this after I tell her that I lead a village for our church and I stay at home with my kids.


The talk gets started and they all gather around on the couches and chairs around Alan Hirsch.  I decide to join them, on the outer circle, but I still want to hear and that's why I came so why not?  They start to open their laptops and ipads and what not.........I get out my notebook with Francesca written on the front and dig out a pen out of my purse..........which doesn't work so I just use a pencil.  The guy next to me............I. kid. you. not..........every time Alan mentions a book, he goes to Amazon to buy/bookmark it.  I write it down with my pencil.........well, I wrote one down.  The one that he said was an easy read and essential............I am still working on "Cutting for Stone", people.  Priorities, people, priorities.

At one point I turn around and see Preacher Man........grinning.  I mouth "I HATE YOU."  He grins some more.  I slink back to one of the tables to sit with him.  He says who are all these guys?  BIG guys.  IMPORTANT guys.  He shrugs it off, says you're doing this stuff that they are here to talk about.

And there it is.


The power of Alan Hirsch and the Preacher Man.

Everyone else sees a mom who must be attending a kindergarten graduation.  Fair assumption.  Not offended at all.  I was called young three times yesterday at that church.  Beautiful, once, by the other woman in the room.  NO OFFENSE TAKEN, thank you very much.

But those two men?

They see in each one of us - whether a stay-at-home mom or head of some church network/megachurch deal - possibility, power to change our space in this world, influence, potential, whatever you want to call it.  They see us not as we are but as we could be........the see beyond the surface.  They get excited about the possibilities found in each and every person who loves Jesus.  And they make a believer out of you too -  not just as someone who believes in Jesus but someone who believes Jesus can work through ANYONE.

I got to talk to Alan Hirsch afterward.  I got to tell him how much his words have meant to me, those words spoken a few months ago.  How they were a spark that caused me to believe that I could do good things, do brave things, do things that mattered, that I was a part of kingdom work.  And you could tell he was genuinely excited by what I was saying.  I shared some things that I was doing and how I use his ideas/encouragement to spark things in my village people.  I actually said that maybe one of the things that is difficult for these other guys (Oh my word, I can't believe I said this......looking back) is that they might have trouble believing that anyone can do it.  That we all have churches to lead.  But that he does and it makes a huge difference when you believe anyone can lead a church - whether a church of 2 or a church of thousands.  He agreed.  He said you have to see it to believe it.  That seeing it happen makes all the difference.  I thanked him again, said I had to go pick up my kids.  He smiled and said something along the lines of this made my day, hearing from you.  He had a big smile on his face and gave me a hug.


And here's what I what you to know, to think about, to realize........YOU are someone's Alan Hirsch.  Someone out there is looking at you, thinking OH MY WORD, it's LIGA's RACHEL's KAREN's RACHEL CHAMBERS.........and all you need to do is notice that person.  You need to tell them that it's not YOU but JESUS in you.  That all the things that they think are so great and amazing and wonderful and inspiring (Now, stop.  Stop thinking that you aren't great and amazing and wonderful and inspiring.  Just stop.  You are.  If you need to know how and why and what am I talking me, e-mail me........seriously. I will tell you.  I see how amazing you are.  If you need the words and specifics, I have them.  Call me) that it's Jesus working in and through you.  AND HE CAN DO THE SAME THINGS IN THEM.   It might look different, it might manifest itself in different ways but that they are capable of great things.

That's such a gift.

Not I will do it all for you.  Not let me do this for you.  Not look at how wonderful I am.

But YOU can do it.  Let me show you how amazing YOU are.  YOU can do great things.  YOU belong here.

So.........who's looking to you - in awe? for guidance? for wisdom? for acceptance?

Are you going to invite them into the circle or try to show them the way to the kindergarten graduation?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Good Days are Now

I was getting ready this morning.........taking the five minutes to brush back my still wet hair, swipe some mascara on my lashes, a swipe of color on my lips and I laughed.  I laughed, thinking back to the hours spent getting ready for school each morning, twenty long years ago.

Twenty years ago.

Have I been alive that long?

Thirty-five sounds so young but when you can say, with crystal clear memory, twenty years ago this happened.........well, it seems not so young.

But, twenty years ago............

I use to sit in front of my mirror meticulously curling each strand of hair in my huge permed bob.

I use to sit and catalogue the faults on my face, hoping to cover whatever blemish was found.

I use to stand in front of the mirror, turning this way and that, looking to see where there were any bulges or bumps or unflattering angles.  Should I change?  Does this look ok?  Would people notice me?  What would be worse - noticing me or not?  Probably noticing.........

I use to spend hours on my appearance.


What I would tell that girl now is that being comfortable with who you are is so much more beautiful than any clothes you could put on.

I would tell her that all those hours spent on self would have been better spent on others because back then every else wasn't thinking about her, rather they, too, were thinking about themselves - their own fears and anxieties and futures and the achingly, seemingly important present.

I would tell her that years from now the boy she had a crush on for so much of her childhood, that constant boy-a-few-streets-over.......well, he would grow up to be just as kind as he always was and one day you would walk into his parents house and there he would be a husband, a father wearing white socks with sandals, drinking a beer, watching sports with his dad and you would giggle inside remembering the days of swooning over this now grown man.

I would tell her that the girls that seemed to have it all together and always appear flawlessly made up and perfectly dressed at school - oh, those girls - they would be the same girls that you would see at the park, at the store, at your child's school and you would share a glance with those now grown girls.  The glance had in it a nod to the past with an eye to the future.  Those girls that once seemed so different, so  knowledgeable about the ways of women......well, now they are wives and moms and the knowledge is the same and the heart is the same.  We have walked the same path and have all emerged beautiful and better for the experiences that life has given us.

I would tell that girl of long ago that beauty, true beauty, comes from within - it's a light, a joy, a sense of self that is unshakable in the face of a blemish, an uncurled hair, a curve that you want flattened.  Beauty comes from loving others rather than loving yourself.  Beauty comes from contentment.  Beauty comes from knowing yourself well enough to know what works, what fits, what you love - even if it's not what is shown in magazines, in catalogues, on the right people.  Beauty comes from God and beauty is found in knowing Him, feeling His love and joy at who He created, feeling His delight in you.

And so as you look in the mirror today..........marvel at who you are.  Marvel at the person you have become, marvel at the path you have traveled, marvel at who God has made you.

Waste not one moment more wishing for something other than what you have, who you are.  For you are a gift.  You are amazing.  You have so much.  You are so much.  Take the time today to see that and then encourage others in who they are, in what you see in them.

Because today, today is a gift.

Treasure it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


My better half has been gone two days now.  He's at sixth grade camp.

I know, right?

I shudder.

I thank him nearly every day for being the one that leaves the house for work.

But he's having a good time.

I told him today on the phone that he should go every year.

He thinks he will.

I am hoping his good deeds count for me, too.

So it's been two days.

And while he's gone, I notice things.

I notice the house is cleaner.

The night ends earlier.

I cook less but bake more.

I read an entire novel.

The laundry is all done.

It's calmer.

And it's only for two days, I know if it were for much longer that might not be as true but it's noticeable in the short term.

And while he's gone, I notice other things.

I put off going to bed longer because it's just me, no one to snuggle up against.

Dinner is over more quickly, there isn't as much lingering around the table.

There aren't dance parties or songs good night, at least not the right ones.

The house is quiet.

The mornings are more lonely then they are peaceful.

And as I notice these things, I think about my expectations and where they were and where they are now.

When I first got married (and if I am honest, I can still slip into this thinking) I had in my mind certain expectations of who does what and kept a list and kept track and wanted things to have a certain equality to them.

And now I realize that my husband is more than a set of tasks, more than just a garbage man, child keeper, toilet scrubber or cleaning assistant.  Because when he is gone?  Those aren't the things I miss the most.  They're nice but they aren't what I love, what I miss when he is gone.

I miss the man not the list of tasks he completes.  I can do those.  I can water the seedlings, mow the lawn, administer medicine, call Steve when a snake appears in the backyard (well, I actually screamed at the top of my lungs - STEVE! STEVE! STEVE!), all that stuff.  But I can't replicate who Joe is.  I can't be daddy or husband.  Joe's songs are more sincere, more familiar.  Joe's play is more intense and rough and crazy.  Joe's arms are strong and warm and sure.  Joe is more generous and forgiving.  Joe's eyes are a reflection of how he sees me and what he sees is always so much more amazing than what I see.  It can be scary to think of who I might be without Joe.

Because as time goes on my expectations........well, my expectations they are changing.

My expectations towards tasks..........they get lower in a lot of ways.  They don't seem to be the mountains I once made them (oh those piles on the floor.......HA! How that use to upset  Well, I take the two seconds to move them into the laundry basket.......why, oh, why Mandy of 8 years ago did you put so much energy into that? :).

But my expectations towards love?

They get higher.

It gets better.

It's weird to think that and maybe it won't be as true 10 years from now because we are still just babies at this marriage thing.

But this love thing?

Those honeymooners nearly nine years ago?

They had no idea.

Can't wait for tomorrow :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Woman of Valor

This is a term tossed about these days - Woman of Valor - a term describing, proclaiming the wonders of women.  It is a cry of triumph, it is a blessing, it is a moment of boldness, it is a term of praise.

It is a rallying cry for women everywhere to encourage one another in their lives - whether their lives consist of serving the poor, serving their family, serving meals to strangers, serving their country - everywhere, serving God in the place where they have found themselves.

And tonight I shine the light on a woman of valor in my life.

She is one who shuns the spotlight.

She is one who would be the first to put her head down, to look away, to block the spotlight from shining on her.

But she is not here, sitting at my computer desk and so I have complete freedom to bring her into the light.

Her name is Rachel Lipford.

She is a wife.

She is a mother.

She is a leader.

She is a cookie baker.

She is a writer.

She is an encourager.

She is an avid consumer of candy.

She is beautiful.

She is humble.

She is teachable.

She is gentle.

She is a protector.

She is my friend.

She is my teacher.

She is a woman of valor.

But, above all, she is a woman of God.

And it is this that makes her life truly amazing because when you know her, when you walk beside her you know that her life is one that comes from God.  It is a life guided by God, it is a life committed to God.  It is with her life that she speaks volumes about who God is and causes others to look to Him.

Rachel Lipford

Woman of Valor

Woman of God

Who is a woman of valor in YOUR life?

Tell her today.