It’s a BIG deal!

My kids frequently fight over who gets in the car first and where they sit. Honestly, it drives me crazy!

Recently, we had an exceptionally dramatic morning over this issue. My youngest was especially upset that he had to be the last one in. So much so that he threw a bit of a fit, and fell out of his seat, while I was closing the door. Luckily he wasn’t hurt. But the fact that he could’ve been made me even more upset at the ridiculousness of the situation.

“It’s just getting in the car! Who cares who’s first! What’s the big deal?” I reasoned. It was at that moment I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the tears streaming down his face and I realized to him it was a big deal. For his little life of five years, that was the biggest thing happening. To him it was everything.

I wiped his tears and dropped him off and he went skipping into school.

After, driving to work it I began thinking: What issues in my life am I freaking out about and throwing a fit about? To me it’s such a big deal. Even now I find myself in a situation beyond my control and I’m freaking out. But in the driver seat of my life is a Father who is all knowing, all loving. He holds the world in His hands and sees every situation. He knows the number of the hairs on our head. I wonder if He’s looking at us, wiping our tears smiling, saying, my beautiful child, I’m here, calm down, come to me and rest.

I hope today that no matter what situation you find yourself in big or small that you will be encouraged that your Heavenly Father sees you, you matter to Him and He will see you through! If you let Him, He will wipe your tears so you can go skipping on into the life He has planned for you! 

Criticize by Creating

This has to be one of my favorite phrases. I don’t have it down 100% of the time, but over and over again when something frustrates me, I remind myself of this.

I’m not gonna lie, when I see people, especially people born in Buffalo who have moved away making fun of our weather on social media, I’d really like to give a sarcastic comeback.  Something like: “Thank you captain obvious for pointing out the fact that it is in fact cold out, can I point out to you that while my kids are enjoying their summer break in the beautiful Buffalo summers, yours will be sitting inside in air conditioning bored because if they were to go outside their faces would melt off.” Would I feel better for a moment? Yes. Helpful? No.

On a more serious note, in the type of work I do, I can sometimes see things that are very unjust. This can be by the people we are working to help and empower in Sierra Leone and those from the US side who want to “help”.  Things can get ugly as the depravity of our humanity rears its ugly head.  And lets just say, especially when someone even thinks about doing something to hurt our program “Momma Kate” will want to come to the defense.

Instead of joining in the negativity I am working towards being a person who criticizes by creating. If we paint a picture for others of how things “ought to be” sometimes that picture speaks louder than a thousand  (sarcastic) words.

How can we criticize by creating?

  1. Ignore the negative and speak/show the positive. Proverbs 9:7 says: “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults.” Really, do you really think your sarcastic response is going to result in something positive? CREATE: go do something fun and find the joy in whatever you were being mocked in. (In our weather example, go outside and enjoy the snow, create memories and share those with others.)
  2. Recognize it’s probably not about you. Realize that often times, someone’s negativity (even if it seems directed at you) probably has nothing to do with you. When you realize that, you can change your defensiveness and hurt to empathy for them. CREATE: offer them some word of encouragement. (In our weather example, a better response would be: I’m really happy you and your family get to enjoy a beautiful day outside.)
  3. Choose to diffuse. Frustrating or even unjust situations often become a boiling pot that’s ready to explode. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” CREATE: be the one to take the first step, send a text, write a note, or buy a coffee for that person. It’s amazing how a simple act of kindness can soften the hardest heart.
  4. Lead by example. When you see a problem, rather than complaining about it, do something about it. CREATE: Be a problem solver. Use your time, talents, gifts, voice to help make the world how it ought to be. 

When Death is Beautiful

My absolute favorite season is fall. As a Buffalo girl, it’s another hopeful start to the Buffalo Bills season (naysayers don’t even haha). I love the crispness of the fall air, and comfortable temperatures. I love the general “coziness” of the season: apple picking, pumpkin farms and warm apple cider. Most of all I love the beautiful colors of fall. Every day I awake to a new beautiful color display as if God repainted the canvas of the trees at night while we were all asleep.

Recently while driving I reflected on the “why” behind the changing colors. I was reminded that the changing colors are actually the process of the leaves dying. The leaves must die in preparation for winter and eventually for new growth in the spring. If it weren’t for the death of the leaves we would miss out on the beautiful splendor that comes with the changing colors. And even after the death of the leaves we know it is not the end, after some time, past the cold of winter, new leaves will bud once again.

I think this applies to our own lives. Sometimes good things must die to make way for the new. We might fight against the process, but if we were to let go, we can actually learn to appreciate the beauty in that process. Sometimes I find myself letting go of something only to try to take it back again. It reminds me of those last few leaves that hold on to the trees, the ones that are there during the first snow. The problem is, those leaves freeze, and weigh down the tree, damaging it.

We must learn to let things die. Whether its bad attitudes, bitterness and anger, or even some of our commitments that keeps us too busy. If we keep holding on to them, just like the leaves that hold on until winter, we will damage ourselves. When we let go, the death of those things make way for new life. Bad attitudes can be replaced with joy. Bitterness and anger can be replaced with peace. And moving away from being overcommitted can lead to more fullness of life.

Learning to let go is not always, and death can be painful. I encourage all of us to do it. I would even push us to take a step further, to a look for and appreciate the beauty in the process.

What things in your life do you need to let go of to make way for the new?

Highlights From a Leadership Conference

“A person can only receive what is given them from heaven.” Andy Stanley. Everything we have, our talents and abilities, even our opportunities come from God. It is our job to learn what our unique abilities are, and to develop them, but we must remember they all came from Him. Embrace what makes you uniquely you and don’t compare with or try to be someone else.

“Love the calling you have, not the one you wish you had.”  Jud Wilhite. The truth is we all compare ourselves with other people. This comparison game is perpetuated and amplified by social media. Keep in mind that people are always putting their best foot forward and greatest strengths out there in their “online presence”. Behind every “got it all together” outside appearance is just a human being with weakness, fears and struggles. So our challenge is to find who we are meant to be, perfect it and celebrate our unique value we add to the kingdom.

“You can’t wear God out, everything you need He already is.” Priscilla Shriver This was a great reminder and encouragement! Priscilla talked about how sometimes we can become frustrated with ourselves when we fail or when we aren’t at the place we want to be. She then reminded us that God has been fighting for us from the time of the fall in the garden all the way to the cross. Our small struggles and failures aren’t too much for Him, and His patience with us never runs out.

Obstacles and moments of weakness are your greatest opportunities” Malcolm Gladwell Malcolm talked about his new book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.” We’ve always looked at David as the underdog in the David and Goliath story. Malcolm argues that we have it wrong. David was trained on the sling and was an expert at killing lions and other animals that would threaten his sheep. Goliath as a giant also had a lot of weaknesses. He challenged us to think that obstacles and moments of weakness are our greatest opportunities. I have started reading the book and will do a full book review soon, you can get the book here.

“The Bible doesn’t say change your neighbor as yourself it says love them.” Reggie Joiner 
This was probably my favorite takeaway. Trying to change others to be who we think they should be really doesn’t work and it definitely doesn’t point them to Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself, and watch God’s love change them from the inside out.

Which one these leadership lessons is your favorite?

Spells, Bob Goff & Backyard Bullies

Last week was interesting to say the least. There was weird stuff, hopeful stuff and hurtful stuff all at the same time. My hope is that these stories and lessons learned will be an encouragement to you.

The week started out as a normal week in the let them LOL office. The energy is exciting and the office is always busy as we are preparing for our upcoming Water Gala. Then Wednesday hit. I received a call from one of our Sierra Leone staff that someone had put a spell on me. “What did you say?” was my response. Yes, someone had put a spell on me, but it wasn’t a “bad” spell, it was one that tries to control the heart of the person. However, all our Sierra Leone staff was going to fast and pray for three days for me.  Oh, thanks, now I feel much better. It’s not a bad spell but you are all going to fast and pray for three days? After we hung up, I was definitely feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by this whole idea. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much Wednesday night.

Thursday morning I woke up thinking about the whole thing. I wondered, who do I even talk to about something like this? Then I remembered that Bob Goff, the author of Love Does (one of my favorite books) had experience with this kind of stuff as a result of the work he is doing in Uganda. In the back of Love Does, Bob left his phone number in case a reader wanted to call him. I remembered this but thought to myself: “he probably has someone answering it for him, what’s the point?” I changed my mind though and opened up the book and dialed the number. “Bob Goff here” was what I heard. I put my shock aside and went right to explaining everything, as I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. He said a lot of encouraging things and I will share the key takeaways at the end of the post.

Literally 15 minutes after I hung up with Bob, I get another call from our Sierra Leone staff. This time someone there was threatening our program. They didn’t have ground to stand on, but both our US and Sierra Leone teams were upset. We were basically being bullied so someone could get what they wanted. It took a couple of days, but the whole situation calmed down and was resolved. 
By the end of the week, we were all really worn out.

Here are a few things that I learned this week:

1. Fear is contagious, but so is hope. (Bob Goff) This is the phrase from my conversation with Bob that sticks out the most for me. Once one of our Sierra Leone staff started freaking out about the whole spell thing, then the whole team there was freaking out and then I was. When you face fear, you have a choice about how much power to give it. If you let it overwhelm you, it will spread to others. In the same way, when you allow yourself to be filled with hope that is contagious too. I want to be a HOPE spreader and a fear stopper! Don’t you?

2. Be careful who you give the microphone to in your life. (Bob Goff) Yep. I often struggle with this one. While other’s input in our lives is important, we always need to watch how much influence that has over us. I was reminded on Sunday during a song at church: “no power in hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.” It is important to seek advice, but always weigh the advice against who you are because of WHOSE you are.

3. Perseverance. We have been so excited to be able to share so many of the amazing stories of all God is doing through let them LOL. But what most people don’t see is the weeks like these. The weeks where we are left completely empty and exhausted. Through prayer and help from God, we press on through the struggles and challenges. Someone once said “I didn’t say it would be easy, but it will be worth it.”

I’m pretty sure this week wasn’t filled with spells for you, but I’m sure many of you faced struggles and trials. What’s one thing you do when you face difficulty?

How to Survive Eating Out With Kids

Whether our not you have young children, we all have been to a restaurant and have seen a family with young kids. It’s the table with cheerios flying, occasional blood curdling screams and usually two worn out parents. Maybe you’ve even cringed when the hostess sat you nearby them. For most moms, a break from cooking is a welcomed one, but eating out with young kids isn’t always a picnic.

Recently our family of five went out for pizza. Joe and I did the unimaginable; we tried to have an uninterrupted conversation. We had ordered and the kids had a coloring sheet with those crayons that don’t really color, and so we thought we were all set. After the 10th interruption in 5 minutes I felt frustration building up inside. It was right at that moment that our youngest put his hand in front of my mouth while I was talking, and I burst out laughing.

There are some things we’ve learned and I apparently need a reminder on when it comes to eating out with little kids:

  1. Expectations: One definition of disappointment is “the feeling of sadness caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations”. So many disappointments stem from unmet expectations. When at a restaurant with young children, expect to eat (at least a little), expect spills, and expect a few annoyed glances. Expecting to have an uninterrupted conversation is probably unrealistic.
  2. Preparation: Aside from the usual: cheerios, goldfish, wipes, extra clothes, plunger, etc. be as prepared as possible. I have gone as far as looking up the menu online, and arriving ready to order.
  3. Perspective: As my Grandma used to say, “this too shall pass.” It’s not always easy to remember in the thick of it, but this is only a season. Even more than getting through, these are precious moments as chaotic as they may seem. When we keep things in perspective, we are less likely to become frustrated.
  4. Laugh: When your two year old knocks his orange juice all over your smothered chicken, just think of it as smothered orange chicken. The truth is, it really isn’t the end of the world, try to find the humor even in a frustrating moment. 

Our kids are 9, 7 and 4. We are out of the flying cheerios stage. While I am enjoying them being more independent I miss those drool filled kisses, and sweet baby giggles.

So lets all remember today to find the joy in whatever season we are in. And if you are out of the season of little kids and you happen to see a young family at a restaurant, maybe offer a word of encouragement to them, it would probably go a long way.

Do you have any funny stories of eating out with kids? Please share them.

How to Make Mondays Your Best Day!

Don’t you just LOVE Monday mornings? It is the start of another hectic week! Oops, I forgot to pack the lunches. Oops, did I sign all the school papers? Ok, no! I don’t love Monday and I am sure many of you are with me on that. But what if? What if we choose to make Monday’s our best day? I propose that the easiest way to make Monday’s great is to get the focus off ourselves, and DO SOMETHING for someone else.

Recently, my husband and I were eating lunch on the second floor of a restaurant downtown. As we waited for our food to arrive, we both enjoyed looking out the window at the people passing by. It was a beautiful day and the neighborhood was very alive. As I looked closer, I was struck by the two homeless people I saw. The man was tall, with greasy hair, layers of ripped clothes and he walked about aimlessly. The woman was very elderly, with the same greasy hair and ripped clothes. Several people walked by them in that “I don’t see you” kind of way.

Then out of nowhere, another man came down the street. He wasn’t walking he seemed to be skipping. He had a contagious, continuous smile on his face. He stopped and spoke to the man first, greeted him, smiled and handed him a dollar. He did the same for the woman, as he skipped along on his way. I wish I could’ve taken a picture of the man and woman’s face. And I don’t think it was even about the dollar, it was the way he greeted them, acknowledging them in the midst of their struggles.

As he walked away, his smile grew bigger. You see the best way to have is to give. While I am convinced himself wasn’t his motivation, this guy was on to something profound. We are the most alive when we are doing something for someone else.

A Challenge:

Right now, wherever you are, think of the first person that comes to mind and send them a text. Tell them you are thinking of them or that you’re praying for them. Tell them what you appreciate about them. We all know what that feels like when someone does that for us. Sometimes those messages come at just the right time.

So ready, go! Make your Monday your best day, by making someone else’s day!

Please stop back to share your stories of what happened. Savvy?

 

Hope in the Loss

Yesterday, I learned of the death of my friend Mariamma. She was one of our housemothers at our children’s home and wife to Emmanuel, our former director of the home. During the trip to celebrate the opening the home, we discovered that both Emmanuel and Mariamma were extremely sick. After testing, we learned that they both had a terminal illness. As a result, they could no longer work in our children’s home. Emmanuel passed away nearly a year ago and Mariamma has been sick for a very long time. Her passing was not a surprise but still painful as she is leaving behind three children, and we grieve with them.

During my April visit to Sierra Leone, I searched for Mariamma. I finally found her in a dusty shack, in a small room. When I walked in, the room smelled of sickness. But her face filled with joy when she saw me. Her body was weak and she was significantly thinner than what she was when I saw her last just a few months before. She had multiple, large, painful boils covering her body. I confess given the nature of her disease, I was at afraid to get too close.  Then something happened, I was overcome by love. It wasn’t me it was Jesus in me. I embraced her frail body in my arms; I kissed her face and held on to her hand. It was one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of my life.

What we can learn about Hope in the Loss:

  • The Greatest Hope of All: Mariamma was a follower of Jesus, and we have a great joy in knowing her suffering is over and we will see her again!
  • Hope Takes the Risk: You won’t regret stepping out and giving hope to someone in their suffering and despair: That moment in her small room in a shack in Sierra Leone is etched forever in my heart. I will go back to it time and time again for inspiration and courage to continue to love greatly & give completely.
  • Hope is an Opportunity: We all have opportunities: some big, some small to be hope to someone. Don’t let that those moments pass you by. Don’t be paralyzed by fear, be motivated by hope & love, you won’t regret it.

Have you had the opportunity to give hope & show love to someone in his or her despair, or did someone meet you in your suffering? Please share your story.

I will write & share Emmanuel’s story at a later time, but in the meantime, you can watch this video in his memory.

Welcome & Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Welcome matey to Hope & Savvy!

I could not think of a better day to launch this blog than “National Talk Like A Pirate Day.”

So throw on an eye patch, learn some pirate phrases and have a little fun today.

But before you do, please take a moment to look around.

“ABOUT”  is a great place to start.

Savvy?