Circles ARE Better Than Rows

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Written by my friend Chris Wills:

This weekend, the five women in my couples small group decided to take a trip to Texas. Why Texas? Well, since I was born and bred there, I would ask, “Why not?” The truth is our favorite HGTV show, Fixer Upper, was having the huge grand opening of their new store in Waco, Texas. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to hop on a plane for a quick girls trip. Not an easy feat.

Though we are mostly empty nesters, we were leaving behind: husbands—one with ALS, work, five children, and one new foster daughter. In spite of all that, we were giddy. Flash flood warnings all around Texas did NOT slow us down. We got drenched in Waco. We drove through some horrendous rainstorms. We learned that one in our group is terrified of torrential rain. We enjoyed Magnolia Market, Harp Designs, and Common Grounds coffee shop. We sipped our coffee on the Common Grounds porch as the rain came down in sheets around us. And we took more social media pictures than I care to admit.

But, for me, the icing on the cake was getting to see my two worlds collide. Georgia friends, whom I have done life with for almost 20 years, got to meet my Texas friends, who have been dear to me since college. Sisters-in-law also intersected in some of these relationships, making it even that much sweeter! We went from In-N-Out Burger for dinner one evening—where we all ate each and every French-fry— to the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus the next. There was no rush. No huge agenda. Shopping one day, taking in a Presidential library the next morning. Not laying eyes on Chip and Joanna Gaines, but running into Laura Bush at lunch, and, of course, having a picture made with her! Heart-felt conversations were had, some with tears. At other times we were laughing so hard those tears came again.

All the while, I watched some of my favorite people in the world not only meet, but become sweet instant friends with one another. Then it hit me. At some point in my life, I have been in a circle with each one of these ladies. We have married one another off, birthed children, encouraged each other through years of mothering and baseball games. We have celebrated and grieved the ups and downs of life together. We have known life’s joys, beauty, death, sickness, surgeries, divorce, recovery, and the need to have others navigate it all with us.

As I fly home, I am overwhelmed with how the Lord has blessed me through the friendships of these fearless, faithful women. The extra bonus, or hug, I felt like I received this weekend, was getting to see these friendships that span my lifetime connect with one another.

“In this world we will have trouble . . .” God promises that. But in this world, we experience glimpses of heaven as well. This weekend was one of those glimpses for me.

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MAKE IT ZERO!

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely could not put down? Mary Frances Bowley, the founder of Wellspring Living, is releasing her new book this week—Make It Zero—and I could not put it down. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book could change the world. It could certainly change a bunch of “somebody’s” worlds.

Through the stories Mary Frances has recorded, and through her own passion and compassion for young women from difficult places, you will come away changed. You will move away from being concerned with a “category” of people to feeling an urgency to personally respond.

As a foster mom, it’s easy for me to put my girls’ faces into the stories Mary Frances shares. Foster children are more likely to become runaways. They are more susceptible to homelessness at early ages. And there is a strong correlation between runaways, homelessness, and commercial sex trafficking.

So often when we face the overwhelming statistics and the numbers related to at-risk women and children, we turn away, not because we don’t care, but because we wonder how our little bits can ever make a difference. Mary Frances hammers home the idea that everyone can do something. Whether your platform is large or small, whether you can impact thousands or make an impact on one, YOU can make a difference.

So, please read Make It Zero. Share it with others. Become part of a movement. You’ll be glad you did!

A few ways to engage:

  1. Buy the BOOK.
  2. Attend the Launch Party!
  3. Follow the movement on social media.

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Calling All Christmas Cards!

Happy New Year!

Do you still have your Christmas cards displayed? I’m that person who wants all Christmas decorations organized, packed up, and put away THE DAY after Christmas. Tree needles need to be vacuumed up and household décor minimized. That said, I must confess that I leave the basket with Christmas cards out a while longer—I love seeing the happy faces of family and friends.

But this year—a year spent working on the Comparison Trap study—these Christmas cards are reminding me of something else. If we were to send the photo that really captures our family, this is what you’d find in your mailbox.

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(Mamas of toddlers, I’m afraid it does not get any easier to get your kids to be still and smile…)

Of course, this isn’t the photo we used. But it reminds me that behind every styled and smiling photo on the cards we got this year, there were probably a few outtakes like ours. The photos we choose to send each other—or to post on social media—rarely represent our full reality. But that’s so easy to forget!

The sneakiness of the comparison trap convinces us that we’re not measuring up—that our house isn’t quite stylish enough, that our smile isn’t quite straight enough, that our family isn’t quite “picture perfect.”

As we head into 2016, I would love for it to be a year marked by a bunch of us “Choosing Contentment in an Age of Awareness” (as the Comparison Trap subtitle urges us). God didn’t create us to compete with one another—especially not with the glossy versions we see on Christmas cards or Instagram. So enjoy every minute of gazing at those special cards, but remember “There is no win in comparison!”

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Thanks for all the comments on my last post. Our giveaway winner is: Kelly Temple! (Kelly, send your mailing address to comparisontrap@northpoint.org and we’ll send your prize.)

Let’s do it again—comment here, like the Facebook page, or follow the Pinterest board for the chance to win some fun Comparison Trap stuff.

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Girls! I’m so excited to present Comparison Trap.

For a little over a year now, I’ve been working on a fun side project. This 4-part video study has a companion 28-day devotional book and a free app. It’s hot off the press and ready for you and your favorite group of girlfriends! Hey guys, this is the perfect gift for those ladies on your shopping list. Yep… just here to help.

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I’ll save tales of the process—like the anguish of seeing yourself on screen—for another post on another day. I just wanted to drop in with a quick introduction. And a note that if you’ve bumped into an “out of stock” message on Amazon or elsewhere, there are a few places you can find them right now.

In the meantime, let’s do some giveaways! Comment here, like the Facebook page, or follow the Pinterest board for the chance to win some fun Comparison Trap stuff.

Not Rocket Science…or Swimming Lessons

shutterstock_81781318During the summers of my high school and college years, I worked as a lifeguard and taught kids to swim. It all started with a family friend who managed one of the textile mills in town. He had been an amazing college swimmer at North Carolina State.

John started teaching swimming lessons on the side. He had such a huge response that he soon needed an assistant. I was about fourteen or fifteen at the time, so it seemed like a good job for me. Plus, he taught at our house, so it was convenient! After a couple of summers, he left town to pursue the next phase of his career and left me with the swimming business.

John always began a new batch of kids’ lessons with a parent meeting. I’ll never forget him telling the parents that his goal was simply to get each kid from “Point A” to “Point B.” That each child’s beginning and ending places would likely be different. He didn’t make lofty promises. Nobody left the meeting with visions of college scholarships or Olympic medals. But he did promise that each child would make progress.

And each one did.

Over the past five years, Andy and I have discovered that foster care is a lot like swimming lessons. Each child is unique and comes into care at a different starting place. The goal of a great foster parent is to meet a child at her own “Point A” and lovingly coach and encourage her toward whatever “Point B” is uniquely hers.

Like Coach John, we don’t make promises we can’t keep. But we do work to ensure that every child who comes into care can take a next step—his or her own next step. Sometimes progress is imperceptible. On some days it feels like we’re going backwards. On those occasions we have to remind ourselves that even a temporary place of provision and safety with a picture of what a future can look like is progress.

Occasionally, the time a child spends with a foster parent or foster family is life changing. His progress is astounding. Instead of a short A to B, he makes huge strides and finds himself much further along on the continuum.

Either way, the common denominator for foster kids who make progress is time—not necessarily the length of time in foster care, but the time spent with caring adults who made them feel worth it.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even swimming lessons. It’s simply time invested in a kid or two as they discover their Point A’s and journey along to their Point B’s.