So, You Always Wanted to Be a Cheerleader?

Cheer Photo*This post’s intended audience is Pastor’s Wives, but I think it actually applies to everyone!

I’ll never forget one summer night having dinner with a pastor and his wife. Andy and I were newly married and navigating the world of working with teenagers. I don’t doubt for one minute that this pastor’s wife loved Jesus and meant well, but something didn’t feel great about the vibe between the two of them. I remember her telling us that she always felt it was her role to keep her husband humble. What with all the people praising and complementing him all the time…  He chuckled a little bit uncomfortably. She was pretty proud of her success.

In spite of my complete inexperience and floundering to figure out what being a ministry wife meant, that one thing failed to ring true for me. I decided to do the exact opposite. My goal became “be his greatest cheerleader.” I don’t always get it right, but that’s the bull’s-eye on the target. Even when busy with ministry and family and whatever else, my top priority apart from my personal relationship with Christ is Andy. There are lots of people affirming him and admiring him. Why would that EVER make me do it less?

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice. Never assume the role of keeping your husband humble. Don’t let anyone else “out cheer” you. I don’t mean loudly and publicly and obnoxiously. I simply mean in HIS heart and mind, you’re his greatest fan.

A few ideas to get you thinking… I’m so proud of you. I love what God is doing through you. I love life with you. I love parenting with you. I’d marry you again in a minute! Thank you for your sweet text, it made my day. That shirt looks really good on you.  Have you been working out? Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting carried away, but you get the point.

I’m convinced that this approach is a win for your ministry, a win for your husband, and a win for YOU!

A note to the guys: Men, how would you like to hear this? “Honey, I wish everyone who hears you speak could know how well you live what you teach. You’re the real deal.” Hey, give her some stuff to compliment. Live up to what you teach. You potentially have the best cheerleader in the world right next to you.

Parenting Teenagers Part 4: Owning Their Faith

Allie QT PicRecently I was asked by a mom of a pre-teen if she should force her child to read his Bible, have a daily devotional time, quiet time, whatever you want to call it. I think what she really wanted to know was how to lead her son to “own his faith.” She just wasn’t sure how to put words around that. She thought maybe forcing Bible reading and prayer time might be the path that leads there.

I suppose it’s possible there is a kid out there who would respond positively to that approach. I didn’t have one.

While I’ve never encountered a perfect formula that I think would work for every kid, I have a few suggestions for leading your children to own their faith and move toward a desire to spend time reading the Bible and praying – developing intimacy with their Heavenly Father.

  • Model it.
  • Encourage it.
  • Make it easy.

Model it. Stop for a moment and ask yourself if you’re modeling for your kids what an intimate relationship with Christ looks like. Do they see you consistently spending time alone with God? Do you shoo them away when they accidentally interrupt your quiet time, or do you invite them in? Do they ever see a verse of Scripture that you’re trying to memorize stuck to your bathroom mirror or dash of your car? Have you ever shown them a journal entry for something you’re praying about? Have they ever overheard a conversation you’ve had with someone about something God is teaching you or an area in which you feel He’s stretching you? Have you shared with them what God might be doing in your heart, even regarding being a better parent? Let them SEE what God is accomplishing in you through your time alone with Him. Model it.

Encourage it. Sometimes our kids simply need our suggestions in order to begin thinking in a certain direction. As parents, we tend to know our kids pretty well. Is your child a morning or evening person? Start there with a simple suggestion of the time of day they might consider. Word of caution: there is a difference between occasional suggestions and nagging. Recruit your son or daughter’s small group leader to help you encourage a regular quiet time. Often our kids respond better when someone else throws an idea their way. Don’t tell anyone, but occasionally we resorted to bribing our kids to read certain books or listen to certain messages. I didn’t say that…

Make it easy. Does your child have an age appropriate Bible of his or her own? We started really early having a Bible beside each of our kids’ beds. Early on, it was mostly picture Bibles with short Bible stories. As they learned to read, we made sure they had one they could read on their own. Every Easter, I made sure there was some great quiet time tool in their Easter basket – an age appropriate Bible if I thought maybe they had outgrown their current one, a journal once they were old enough to begin processing their thoughts and insights, cool pens and highlighters, maybe a great book or biography. For the boys, sometimes it would be a book about a sports figure, outspoken regarding his faith. Get creative and make it easy!

Don’t expect them to immediately have the same level of commitment to a quiet time that you might. Take their personalities, preferences, and maturity into account. Don’t push too hard, you already know where that leads! Simply model it, encourage it, and make it easy. In their own timing, you’ll possibly find that they inspire and challenge YOU.

Everybody Can Do Something

One of my favorite roles in life is being Aunt Sandra. Andy and I have four nieces and five nephews. We love having opportunities to pour into them any time we can. Even as they’ve gotten older, there has been something rich and special about these relationships. Our home is their second home; our family is their second family. It’s priceless to us.

Over the past five years, we’ve added to that niece/nephew count in a unique way. We’ve become “Aunt and Uncle” to some extraordinary kids who have found themselves in hard places.

In our churches, there are families who have decided to engage with foster kids. While some dive right into the deep end, becoming foster families, others have surrounded the foster families with support. They have played more of an “Aunt and Uncle” role in these kids’ lives. It’s an awesome role to play!

Our goal at Fostering Together is for each of our foster families to have a team of supporters assigned exclusively to them. Each family has their own Respite Family, and ideally, three Supporting Mentors.

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Respite families have all of the training needed to have foster children in their homes overnight. Usually these “sleepovers” are on weekends. But, occasionally a foster family has an unexpected emergency or a need for the child to spend the night out.

Supporting Mentors offer assistance to the foster family for any daytime babysitting needs.  They might provide meals on particularly busy days. Occasionally they pick kids up from school and get them to afternoon activities, thus giving the foster parents a break from the time they drop kids off at school until bedtime! What parent doesn’t adore a day to “catch up” on errands or have a mid-week date night?

Respite Families and Supporting Mentors play vital roles. Not only do the foster parents feel some pressure removed, the precious kids find themselves with the added benefit of “extended family.” They have consistent people in their lives who are familiar, fun, and safe.  Most kids love a big cheering section at their ballgames and recitals. Foster kids are no different!

Beyond even these roles, there are more places to plug in with foster kids. Tutors, medical professionals, prayer warriors, court appointed special advocates (CASA)… all can find a place to serve foster kids.

If you’re interested, make an effort to do a little research in your area. I bet it won’t take you long to find a place to help. You think you’ll help change some kids’ lives for the better, but let me promise you this: that blessing goes BOTH ways!

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

_DSC3496 - Version 2Sour Cream Pound Cake— one of my all time favorites! Being a native Georgian, I LOVE peach shortcake, and my Grandmama’s sour cream pound cake is perfect for that. BUT, being a health enthusiast, I can’t seem to restrain myself from taking a perfectly delicious recipe and believing with all my heart that it will be just as delicious in a healthy version. Enter eye roll from husband…

For the sake of transparency, I must admit to tossing some seriously bad attempts at “healthy-ing up” an otherwise fabulous recipe. For the sake of reputation preservation, I also must say there have been winners here and there. I think this is one of them, and Andy agrees. So here you go!

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

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  • 1 Cup Coconut Oil
  • 3 Cup Sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane juice)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 Cup soft wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup Greek yogurt

Combine coconut oil and Sucanat in mixing bowl. Cream until smooth. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Sift flour, soda, and salt together. Alternating, add dry ingredients and yogurt to creamed mixture. Pour batter into greased ten-inch tube/bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 1 hour—depending on your oven. Watch carefully. Cake is done when tester comes out clean. Serve with fresh fruit and top with a bit of whipped cream.

With peach season just around the corner, you could wait to make this cake. In fact, I debated waiting to post this until June. However, strawberry season is upon us, so I suggest that THIS is the time. Go ahead and make the darling of spring desserts and let me know what you think. Here’s mine… and my goofy helper! (Thanks, Honey!)

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Oh, and be sure to toast a slice with a tad of salted butter to go along with your coffee or tea in the morning. Yeah, that.

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You’ve Got Potential

“What do you think God thinks about when He thinks about you?” Andy asked this question in a sermon not too long ago as he talked about the prodigal son. I think it’s an important question.

Do your failures and past sins pop into your mind when you think about what God must think of you? Do your prevailing habits or current attitude overwhelm your thoughts and make you want to hide from Him? Do you think when God thinks about you He shakes His head in disgust?

Or, maybe you think He’s proud of you right now, certainly in comparison to some other people you know. Maybe you’re in a season where you’re serving or giving or sacrificing, and you’re feeling good about what He thinks of you. In “musical chairs” terms, if the music stopped right now you’d be golden!

If you’re like most people, the seasons of your life tend to ebb and flow—good times and not-so-good times. Maybe you’re just hoping that in the end, your good stuff will outweigh the bad and your average will be respectable.

I have some very good news. When God looks at us, He doesn’t just see us as we are in the moment. He sees our potential and all that we can be for Him. He sees our whole timeline at once. He doesn’t just shake His head in frustration over our current poor choices or missed opportunities. He actually sees what’s next, and next, and next.

A great example, and an encouraging one, is the way Jesus perceived Peter. Impulsive, sometimes unstable, speak-before-you-think Peter seemed to be one of Jesus’ favorites. His given name was Simon, but since Jesus saw Simon’s future, He knew his potential. Matthew 16 records the conversation where Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “rock.” Jesus knew that Peter would ultimately be strong, courageous, and influential. He knew Peter would leverage his influence for the building of “the church” and the salvation of many.

At the time of the name change, Peter had not earned it, nor proved himself worthy of the leadership role he would ultimately have. But Jesus knew. Jesus loved him in spite of his impetuous behavior. Jesus respected him in spite of the fact that a little while later Peter’s lack of understanding would cause Jesus to say to him, “Get behind me, Satan!” Ouch.

One of my all-time favorite Bible passages is Psalm 139. I memorized it a couple of summers ago, and I love to pray it out loud. Something about verse 16 overwhelms me every time I say it. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” He’s not writing our stories as we go, surprised by our choices and caught off-guard by our decisions. Every day ordained for me is already written in His book. He knows me and loves me anyway. He knew and loved Peter anyway. He knows and loves you anyway.

So what do you think God thinks about when He thinks about you? I think His Father-heart is filled with joy, knowing your whole story, knowing your extraordinary potential, and knowing what He’s created you to do. All the days ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be. I believe that when He thinks about you, He grins from ear to ear. Think about THAT!