Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm reminding myself of the need to be thankful in all things....not just the easy, predictable but the mundane, the supernatural and the the ugly, in the unpleasant and in the beauty and broken.

“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”

― A.W. Tozer

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

“Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.”

― Thomas Goodwin

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”

― Harry A. Ironside

"I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep."

— Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

Monday, July 22, 2013


I was reminded of some great resources last week at the conference we attended. I checked a few out at CBD this morning and found that Boundaries is on sale for $5 right now.

Boundaries was a book that helped me early in ministry. I actually attended a book study at Sagemont Church in Houston for 12 weeks as we walked chapter by chapter through areas where we need to set healthy boundaries. I went into the study thinking telling people "no" was mean and would be misunderstood and I came away learning that to be a healthy person myself, I need to know my limits, physically, spiritually and mentally. I am far from a super-human being and to think I can handle everything just proves how much I struggle with pride.

Since the original Boundaries came out, the authors have written a few other books that highlight specific areas that we need to set healthy boundaries. I can tell you that these books helped to educate me as a very young, impressionable pastor's wife. Now as a mother, they're helping me set realistic boundaries for my kids.

Check this deal out...and more. (Search for specific title names through the search box at the top of my blog for easy access to the book information.

247454: Boundaries, Softcover

Boundaries, Softcover

By Dr. Henry Cloud / Zondervan

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us, mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts, emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God's will from our own.

Boundaries in Dating
Boundaries with Children
Boundaries in Marriage
Boundaries with Leaders
Boundaries with Teens

Friday, July 19, 2013

An Open Letter to Ministry Personnel

Dear Ministry Personnel,

We've been in ministry for twenty years. First in Springfield, Mo, where we worked quietly in our church while finishing college and then full time in several churches. Fourteen of those years as the Senior Pastor (and wife). If I could describe our ministry experience over the last twenty years in one word, I would say, "blessed", not because it's been flawless, but because we have had godly men and women investing and breathing truth and light into our lives. I truly believe this, along with God's protective hand, has sheltered us from a world of hurt so common to those in ministry. It's been God's grace all the way.

So, when my husband signed us up to go to Don and Sheryl Rooks's Ministry Conference that specializes in dealing with the stress involved in ministry, I balked. I even told him I didn't need that "touchy feely stuff". Besides I knew that my kids would be at camp the week before the conference and I didn't want to be apart from them that long. Two weeks is a long time in this momma's mind. I also came up with about 200 excuses and actually had hoped that a snake would bite me while I was at my mom's house in Georgia two weeks ago, thinking for sure, that could get me out of this. Yes, I'm so mature.

Well, the snake didn't bite and my sister in law suggested a mini-vacation for the kids and so my excuses and solutions had run dry. So, on Monday afternoon we checked ourselves into the hotel and settled in for a week long waste of said me. I didn't need this.

Sometimes we don't know what we need until we are faced with a few quiet minutes and a crazy person like Don Rooks (and a few of his wise friends) to help us figure things out. Before Monday evening concluded I knew God had something for us at the conference. No, we didn't come in with any major issues, our marriage is good, our kids still love us, we had four great parents, we have dealt with our legalistic upbringings at times in the past, we love our church, we don't have a history of abuse but there was something here for us....So how could this conference help us??? Thanks for asking.

First of all, as stated numerous times by the facilitators of the conference, they would much rather deal in prevention than recovery. The tools on forgiveness and church dynamics that we learned this week will be tools we will implement in our ministry and counseling and our own family. We were reminded constantly that God loves us regardless of our past, present or future choices. No matter what. Who doesn't need to be reminded of that? We gained insight to dealing with our kids, who no matter how much I try to shield them from the hurts of the ministry, they will eventually feel the shrapnel from the explosives that come our way. Not to mention the enormous skill set that was present during each sessions. We learned about paradigms, abuse recovery, church family, hurt, parenting and so much more.

I can think of only one word to describe my attitude and resistance before the conference...PRIDE. And I humbly dare say, it might be what's keeping you from attending one of the conferences. We treated it like a wellness check at the doctor. We let them poke and prod and most of the time it didn't hurt us too bad...but every once in a while something would be said and I'd say "Ouch!" and I'd know that was an area I needed to check out with God. We are all flawed. We all struggle. We all have stuff.

Yes, it's a long week. Yes, it's going to stretch you. Yes, you might realize that you have some stuff to deal with. Yes, you will be stronger when you leave. Yes, you will be more healthy to serve your family and church. Yes, it will be worth every second of the time you spend there. Yes, you will leave encouraged and better equipped to deal with forgiveness, abuse, addictions and other relevant issues in the church.

Now, I'm thankful in the biggest way that I got to attend. I feel more credible and more confident in my calling as a pastor's wife and I love the encouragement Bruce received from godly counsel. In fact, it NOW seems foolish that I'd want a snake bite instead of this (...duh.)

The conference is totally supported by people who love this ministry. I can think of very few ministries that benefit the body of Christ like this one does. So, we need to be throwing our resources its way. Hotel rooms, conference rooms, food, travel, printed materials...these things cost money. Can you support them (message me for more information on that if you're interested)? And might I boldly say, that our fellowship of churches is only fooling themselves if they don't think they need a ministry like this as part of our affiliation. I think anyone who has attended the conference would agree. Our churches are eaten up with dysfunction, abuse, addictions and unforgiveness. This is a tool to fix those debilitating diseases.

Lastly, I'd like to thank the facilitators who selflessly give their time to pour into the lives of others in ministry. These godly men and women were a safe landing place for those who needed to pour their heart and soul out to someone. I have a deep respect for the amazing work they do.

Thank you!
Gina Stinson

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Saga Continues Georgia - Part 3

This is the one where I expose the mischievous shenanigans of my step dad. Tom...or as we lovingly call him Pop.

Pop is famous for interpreting directions exactly like he wants. He treats commands or orders as suggestions, not as guidelines to ensure good results. Most of the time I believe he has earned this right...after all he is well....over the hill.

With his recent hip replacement we had hoped that he would be more inclined to at least make a shallow effort to obey the doctors orders. Ever heard of a shot in the dark, or dashed hopes, shattered dreams...yes...those would be the words we could use to describe our disappointment when we realized Pop hobbled to the beat of a different drum.

On Monday we thought the physical therapist was coming. The allotted time came and went and finally we gave up. Pop wanted to walk around outside...which was a great idea...but remember the embankment where Pam and I planted 1000 shrubs? That's where he wanted to walk to show me some fresh mulch he had just sent through the wood chipper. Well, there was no telling him no, so I walked right beside him so he wouldn't fall. We got up to the top of the hill when we heard a car coming down the dirt driveway. The therapists!!!! Oh No!!!! How was Pop or I going to explain how and why Pop was on top of the hill......we both knew we were in trouble and Pop came down that mountain in record speed....just in time to meet the car in the was the exterminator. Exterminators don't really care if you're on the top of the hill. Exterminators are not the same as physical therapists.

I thought maybe he had learned his lesson. But after the exterminator left, Pop needed to go get some meds at the pharmacy. So, Pam and I needed to go by the store to pick up a few groceries, so we loaded up and took him to the pharmacy while we were out. We finished quickly at the pharmacy...but when I put the Expedition in reverse, he told me to take a left, he needed to go to Lowe's to get some paint. Really? I don't think a jaunt through the store is what the Dr. ordered....but I dropped him at the curb and Pam walked him through the store to get the paint. I circled around and they were ready to go.

When we arrived home, I thought he would just let us take the paint down to the shed. But no, he wanted to hide the paint from Nancy Jo like it was an illegal drug. He suggested behind the tires....Pam and I were cracking about we just leave it in the car for later? I felt like we were aiding a criminal. And later on he even confessed that he had the same paint in his shop....hmmmm guess he just needed a Lowe's fix!

While Pop was extremely entertaining with his antics, Pam and I provided endless possibilities to entertain him....especially when we were hauling the 6000 pound potting shed up the side of Mt. St. Helens. He was cracking up at the way we finagled that thing. (see Part 1 for more details on the potting shed).

Pop enjoyed the meals prepared for him during the week. Bringing your own caterer with you has its advantages. We created some fantastic Pop favorite meals. I'm not sure I can ever go back without Pam.   Pan crusted chicken, pasta, sautéed green beans, fresh corn, rutabaga patties, bacon and brussell sprouts, sautéed onions, baked beans, asparagus and more. Delicious!

We enjoyed supervising Pop for a few days....although I'm pretty sure he did exactly what he wanted anyway...but we enjoyed hearing his stories, jokes and redneck humor. He also gave us birdhouse lessons and showed us all his new creations. What a gift he is to our family!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Work Camp - Georgia Style! Part 2

So after dinner on the first day of Work Camp, feeling pretty proud of ourselves, Nancy Jo (aka Mom) announced that she didn't have to go into work until 2 the next day. So this meant that she would be joining us for the first part of our second work day. Which was also code for "If you think you were going to do anything halfway....think again."

We rolled out of bed at 7:18ish and crawled our weary, achy bodies to the kitchen, where coffee and diet coke were stocked...(now that I think about it, she was probably putting something in our drinks to make us giddy with delight to be working again). We plopped down at the table, just in time to see Nancy Jo was already outside. Good grief woman! You must be taking your vitamins!!!

We both opted to skip breakfast and headed outside, where mom was eyeing the placement of the potting bench that we had moved yesterday (see Part 1 of this saga). A little to the left, a little to the right, out just a little bit, right there...just a smidge this way.... Finally we got it right where she wanted it and then we painted it radiant red. We also painted a smaller potting bench to match it. At this point the humidity was like 10000%. I wondered if the paint would dry before we left on Friday.

Then she introduced us to 60 or so of her favorite plant friends that needed to be planted....but before they could be planted she needed a few other plants dug up and replanted on the bank in the backyard. Have you ever dug up and replanted juniper? Yeah, me neither...until now. Pam did most of this work because she is like the amazon woman and can handle a pointed shovel like no other lady I've ever met. I started on the smaller shrubs and moving the lantana that mom wanted placed elsewhere. Did I mention this was all taking place on a 75 degree angle bank? And that it had been pouring down rain for the last week? And that the dirt in Georgia is red like clay? And that the pine straw mulch is slippery like wet spinach when it's wet?

We slipped and slid all over the place all morning long. Oh and then there's the small issue of the poison ivy and mosquitoes and tics that decided to attack us with a vengeance. Yep, more on that later.

We were almost through with most of the planting when the sky fell out. For the first few minutes I believed it was going to just roll over so we stayed out and planted a few more things, cleaned up around the freshly painted potting bench (and yes, it was getting wet in the rain) gathered trash, picked up tools and then we ran for cover like chickens being chased by a pitch fork. We looked pitiful.

We sat comfortably on the front porch enjoying the completed project of yesterday...waiting for the rain to pass. Mom went in to get ready for work, Pop had physical therapy and finally the rain stopped. Only by this time, I was needed as a chauffeur for Pop to go to the store. So, Pam finished planting the cursed juniper and I headed for the shower.

This was where I discovered my first tic. Yes, the blood-sucking, skin pinching bug. This was also where I became aware of the itchiness on my face and arms. This was where I realized that while I might have skipped breakfast, the mosquitoes had made quite a meal of me.

By the time I took Pop to the store and got home, Pam was in the same shape as me...itchy. She drugged up on Benadryl and practically bathed in Dawn dishwashing detergent. I waited on the Benadryl but lathered up with the Dawn and applied some ant-itch cream. Seriously, I'm still itching. Right now. Itch. Itch. Itch. Someone suggested I might need a good flea dip. I'm thinking about it.

By the time mom returned home from work, the yard looked pretty good. Pam had gotten things mulched with more dry pine straw. We had things picked up. Dinner was ready and we were too drugged to remember much of anything. Frankly at that point I was on auto pilot.

The rest of the trip....the parts about actually taking care of my step dad are coming soon. But to ignore the enormous amount of work that transpired during this visit would have been a travesty. Like missing your favorite I Love Lucy episode.  I liken the work we accomplished similar to that which a small army does over the course of 2 weeks. Get a coupla women together with a vision and a little gumption and see how soon they can get it done!

Here's a few pictures:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Work Camp - Georgia Style! Part 1

Sometimes I volunteer for things before I really think the whole process through.

When I found out the dates for my step dad's hip replacement surgery and the time it would take for him to recoup, I decided that a trip to Georgia might be in order while the kids and Bruce were away at camp for a week. I asked a friend to go with me so I wouldn't have to drive all that way by myself, she agreed and we packed our suitcases full of comfy clothes, books, snacks and various electronic devices to keep us connected with those we love.

I'm sure that at this point God was looking down from heaven shaking His head and chuckling.

Seems Nancy Jo (my mom, who I usually respectfully call "Mom", until this trip) had a few other things in mind.

When we arrived at the cabin at 1:30 in the morning, we got a quick snack and headed to bed, with plans to talk in the morning about any specifics she needed to discuss with us before she went off to work. I swear I saw a little twinkle of mischief in her eye.

The next morning she cooked a nice breakfast, cleaned up to go to work and then we met for a meeting at the table. In my mind we were going to discuss Pop's medicine schedule, his PT regime, his hardheadedness, dinner plans, errands that might need to be run. I didn't see it coming...the sly way she inched her way into talking about the porch....

"How do you think a pop of color would look on the porch?" She asks, knowing I have an opinion...and so my friend, Pam, and I jumped right into her trap...spouting off color schemes and techniques and ideas. And so began our downhill demise and what I am now lovingly calling Work Camp - Georgia Style.

Before...porch swing

Before Coffee Table

After coffee table..and hydrangeas from Nancy Jo's yard

Who wouldn't want to spend a few hours swingin' here....
Pillows from Lowe's  make this swing extra comfy

Here's the pop of color she was hoping for...

On the other side of the porch we added these chairs
with a red "pop" of color  to tie in the color scheme.
Day 1 of Work Camp also included moving this little darlin' from the back side of Pop's shop up to the cabin so Nancy Jo would have a nice spot to do her planting.

Let me give you the back story. The back side of Pop's shed is a scary place. The fact that one of his dogs has been bitten by a snake two times in the last 3 months should give you a pretty good idea of why two smart women should not be trying to move anything remotely located to it -150 feet, uphill, to the other side of the cabin. But we're talking about Pam and I and between the two of us we have never said no to something anyone said was impossible, so Pam started cleaning off the bench...which was covered in a hoarder's heaven of potting containers and gardening essentials.....and containers filled with rank rain water that had been there since the flood...yes, the one Noah was in.

I headed up to trim back the hydrangea bush and came back 10 minutes later. I approached the site with caution since it smelled like something had shrivelled up and died. In fact, I half expected to see one of the boxer puppies laying dead on the ground. As I gasp for air, Pam and I finished pouring out buckets and finally reached the end of the breeding ground for reptiles of all stages and ages. Now all we had to do was move this potting bench uphill to the spot near the hydrangeas. Easy? Of course not.

Wet wood is 1000 times heavier than dry wood. So, the bulky bench was not only rank with the sour water smell, it was heavy and bulky. Pam and I were tossing that thing around the yard like a dog with a piece of meat. It's a wonder it made it to that spot in one piece. Now that I think about it, it's a wonder that Pam and I were still in one piece after we moved it! Not only was it heavy but the ground was slick from all the rain and Pam and I were slipping and sliding all over the place.

We got it all situated. Rinsed it off. Went back down to the shop where we had left a mess and cleaned that up....and there were the pups (two years old...not really pups) drinking the rank rain water. (Yep...that's gross.) One of them had rolled around in it. (They aren't super smart.) We shooed them away and Pop yelled at them and told us it smelled like "Pig Poo" out there. At that point, I was sure I was going to toss my cookies. We were just about done cleaning up, where Clara Bell (Pup), tossed hers all over Pop's shop floor. Cleanup on aisle 4. Could this get anymore nasty?

Shortly after that, it started raining. Pam and I planted ourselves on the front porch admiring our work and feeling pretty good. A soft breeze blew through the air...and as we sipped our ice water and iced tea, we exhaled and inhaled the intoxicating fresh rank rain water air as it whiffed by.

We were too tired to care...and frankly I was pretty sure I was soaked with the odiferous water it didn't really matter!

PS- Nancy Jo was super excited to see her new porch...which meant she had more ideas for us for other areas of her yard. Which meant that Day 2 of Work Camp is coming soon to a blog near you! And no matter what you might think...Pam and I really enjoyed taking care of these things for was almost as nice as sitting around in our comfy clothes, checking out pinterest, eating fun snacks and nodding off randomly....almost, but not exactly.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

4 Suitcases

The mess is enormous. Between the clean laundry on the table and the 4 open suitcases at my feet, not to mention scattered Legos and a few pieces from a newly acquired western town set on the floor, life is a little messy.

Bruce and the kids are headed to camp Monday morning, but before they leave, I leave for Georgia to be with my stepdad who has just had hip replacement surgery. I'm driving with a friend who will keep me company and awake as we drive into ATL around 1am Monday morning.

So, that being said, I'm trying to get everyone packed up so that Bruce, bless his heart, won't be responsible for any of the wardrobe choices. He has good intentions...truly he does. But somewhere between orange and fuchsia, the lines of color get blurred and some of his color combinations resemble more cartoonish flavorings than what I like my kids to be wearing. Besides, he has enough responsibilities to take care of today.....getting the car ready for me, buying snacks for the trip, getting the ice chest ready, loading the cars up....

Does anybody else feel like they're moving everytime they go out of town????

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth Fun

It's been 7 weeks since I left Sulphur Springs...until yesterday. I'm not kidding.

I haven't ran (in my car of course) to Greenville or Rockwall or even a mad dash over to the scrapbook store in Winnsboro. Nothing. Nada. Nil.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it's my newfound love for being home. Or my desire to be less of a consumer and more diligent in using what I have. Maybe it's the cost of gas. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't really needed to so why would I? Whatever.

So when Bruce had the day off and we could do anything in the world we wanted to...I made a list of the things my family needed for some upcoming traveling we will be doing and we headed to Rockwall. We ate, shopped, looked and enjoyed our day out on the town.

We got back home just in time to get ready for Taekwondo lessons, where many students are getting ready to go to World Competition (thus, the reason the studio was open). As soon as we finished there, we raced home, changed clothes and surprised the kids with tickets to Despicable Me 2. Cute movie.

Just as we finished the Country Club was setting off fireworks so we were able to enjoy the sky on our way home...the long way of course!

I enjoyed the day more than usual probably. Bruce's phone was quiet, the kids behaved, we found some great bargains, the weather was decent...even had a shower and we ate some good food. If only every day could be so magical...

As we prayed with the kids yesterday, we reminded ourselves of this great country, thankful for the freedoms we still have, thankful for the men and women who stand up for what is right and good and biblical and pray that America will draw near to the heart of God. We are America...we the people...oh that we would draw near to Him. This is my prayer for our America.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

5 Hours at Whataburger

For almost four years I've met with friends at the local Whataburger anytime I thought a meeting and meal would take more than an hour or so. Hey, they're open 24 hours a day, have free diet coke refills and their service is better than most fast food. Of course, you pay for it, but I figure for 5 hours of good, relatively quiet conversation, it's worth it for $10 bucks. Oh...and they have free wifi.

While I enjoy everything that Whataburger has to offer (except the calories), I enjoy this building of relationships that happens over laughter and shared burdens and the familiar exchange of kid stories and recipe disasters. The time flies when you are building and strengthening and nurturing relationships. 5 hours later, we are still sitting there, chatting away, oblivious to the time. It flies by.

It's not much different from our relationship with God. Over time, as we spend more time with Him, that relationship is built, strengthened and nurtured...and as we spend time with Him, it flies by. It's as though there's not enough hours to sit in His presence, chatting, enjoying, delighting.

One thing this summer is teaching me is that every hour of my day can be spent in His presence. His presence isn't limited to the church building or the Sunday School class or the choir rehearsal room or the youth camp or any other physical place. His presence is in us. He is with us all the time as our constant companion and friend. I'm learning to find comfort in the quiet moments that used to make me feel uncomfortable. I'm finding joy in the slowed schedule that gives me time to notice Him in the everyday. And I'm learning to listen to Him as I learn to trust Him more and more.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tug of War

I remember playing tug of war at camp as a teenager. Sometimes the leaders would put girls against the guys, or leaders against kids, or young against old. Usually in the middle a line would be drawn...or better yet a muddy pit for the losing team to fall in head over heels. Usually the team that won was the more organized, thoughtful, strategic team. The team that won had someone who took charge, whose voice boomed loudly for all to hear and who had the consistent strength to pull rhythmically in a pattern of heave ho heave ho.

So, after Savannah came to me a few months ago and told me she needed to talk to me about something God was tugging on her heart to do, I began to realize how many times that tugging on our hearts can lead to an all out war with the enemy. Savannah is young in her faith, her heart is tender to pleasing the Lord, she's beginning to ask questions that require more than a chapter and verse answer, she's feeling a little tug of war going on in her spirit.

Her: Mom, I feel God is tugging on my heart to help in Awana next year.

Me: What do you mean?

Her: Well, it's just like when I pray to God at the end of the prayer there's always this thought about Him wanting me to help in Awana.

Me: Do you want to help in Awana?

Her: Well, I think so, I mean, but, I'm not old enough to really do anything big (insert the first tug), and I wouldn't get to sit in church (insert second tug), and I probably wouldn't get to see my friends (tug)....

Me: But if God is tugging on your heart to do something He has something planned that you don't want to miss. Maybe there is someone younger that needs a friend like you? What if you can help a child learn God's Word? What if you can ease the burden of an adult worker who just needs an extra set of hands. What if God has something special for YOU while you serve Him? (insert TUG TUG TUG TUG)

And so it began...the first real struggle I saw take place. Weighing the consequences for following Jesus and responding to His call. I suggested she talk with our children's director at church to see what positions might be available for her to volunteer. We set up an appointment and she went. I wanted her to seek the wise counsel of another trustworthy adult in her life. Mrs. Melinda responded with the appropriate amount of seriousness that ministry requires and the right dose of excitement.

What did Savannah decide? Well, she listened to the loudest voice that was whispering during her prayer time, the one that consistently called her name above all others. The one who had a strategy to capture her heart. Was it easy? No, and while you may think this is insignificant because of her age, I assure you, it has impacted me far more than she will ever maybe, just maybe, this tug of war was more about the spectator. Watching how God wooed her was beautiful. She'll be working with some cute Cubbies in the fall.

As a parent I want to train my kids to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. I want them to understand there is a tug of war going on for their soul, for their affections, for their time, talents and bodies. As they get older, some of these decisions will be made with little input from me, so now's the time to do the training. Now's the time to do the work that they will remember:

1. Listen during prayer time...what's God telling/asking of you?

2. Respond to that voice..

3. Tell someone- so you have accountability

4. Seek the counsel of someone older/wiser

5. Evaluate the possibilities

6. Respond to His Call

God uses His children...whether you're 10 or 110. We glorify Him by being available, open and willing to hear and respond to His tugs on our matter what our age. Will Savannah or me or you always respond correctly?? Doubtful. But knowing how to cope when the all our war for you is going on, is the first step to being a good warrior. Cause nobody plans to fall in the mud pit.