Posted by: pamrichardswatts | December 18, 2014

CUTTING THROUGH THE RED TAPE

red tape

Finding Community in a Competitive World

It makes no difference whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a freeman, a man or a woman, because in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, you are all one. Galatians 3:28 (The Voice)

One of the things I love most about extracurricular life is its community. Team spirit. Esprit de corps. Children’s activities have a way of bringing together parents from all over and uniting us in a common purpose.

I witnessed a beautiful example of this kind of community at a recent competition. We had been watching team after team perform as usual when the unexpected occurred: an athlete experienced a medical emergency. At that moment, individual concerns about points, rank and trophies were forgotten as we rallied to support a fallen teammate.

Event staff circled protectively around the young woman, creating privacy while she received care. Meanwhile, the arena held a collective breath as we awaited the outcome. Once she was escorted safely offstage, everyone applauded in unison. We cheered even louder once we learned she was going to be fine. Echoing the thoughts of many, the emcee finished this announcement with a heartfelt, “Thank you, Jesus!”

It is a wonderful thing to link arms together in unity . . . until the time comes when we have to circle the wagons against “the enemy.”

I saw a little of this at that same competition. Our team likes to sit, support and cheer—as a team. When there are many teams and limited space, it’s common practice to stake out OUR territory. This particular day, an enterprising team mom had blocked out an arena section for OUR gym with strips of red tape. Her strategy would have succeeded—if THEIR gym had not disregarded the tape—and claimed OUR seats as THEIR own. By the time all teammates had arrived, both tempers AND seats were running a little short.

To be fair, the “Skirmish in the Stands” was merely symbolic of a greater struggle. Our gym had recently suffered bitter defeat in a turf war with a rival studio. We were fighting to protect what really mattered to us: OUR teammates, OUR program, OUR victories.

By the time I finally found a seat, I was ready to fume in solidarity with the rest of my team. Meanwhile, THEIR deafening cheers erupted all around us, a constant reminder that THEY had taken over OUR space.

Without warning, one of THEIR mothers turned around and spoke to me:

“I want to you to know we’re cheering for you all too—we hope you do well today!”

I was stunned into a humbled silence. It was all I could do to mumble an awkward, “Th-thank you. That’s v-very kind of you.”

I can’t say for sure what prompted her to do it. Maybe she felt bad about what THEY had done. Maybe she felt sympathy for the small island of US lost in a sea of THEM. I can’t say for sure. But I do know this much:

She modeled community a whole lot better than I did.

The next day, my college kid came home for the holidays. Like so many of her classmates, she is on her own pilgrimage to find community—in her studies, her relationships—and her belief systems. Apparently, since her last visit she had discovered a new ideology that appealed to her. Since it was one I personally have some strong objections toward, it was hard to “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Silently I asked God to help me “speak the truth in love.”

At length (okay, it took an entire day), I had this wisdom to share:

Be wary of anyone preaching US/THEM ideology. “THEY are the problem—WE are the solution. WE win by beating THEM: THEIR studio, THEIR politics, THEIR religion, THEIR color, THEIR gender.”

This kind of strategy may win the day—but only for those “inside the red tape.” It promises community—but delivers division. Such fierce rivalry will never triumph over a broken world—it will only split it further apart.

Thankfully we do not follow a God of “red tape,” but One who recognizes that THEY are not the problem (Ephesians 6:12) any more than WE are the solution (Romans 3:9-12). In God’s Kingdom, there is no US and THEM. We are all HIS, and find true community through HIM. As members of HIS team, we are ALL sure to win.

Unity1In Christ there is no East or West, In Him no South or North; But one great fellowship of love Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere their high communion find; His service is the golden cord, close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith, whatever your race may be! Who serves my Father as His child is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West, in Him meet North and South; All Christly souls are one in Him throughout the whole wide earth.

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | December 3, 2014

Surviving Life in a Credit Card Commercial

Count on God before Counting CostsGod-provides-849x1024

Those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34:10 (NKJV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

The world of children’s extracurriculars can often feel like one long MasterCard ad. “Uniforms: $$. Private lessons: $$. Watching your child excel in their gift and talent: priceless.” As expenses mount up, it’s easy to get bogged down by all those dollars on the way to the “priceless” finish line.

However, like Caleb entering Canaan, we too can go forward with confidence into the land God has given us. We can stand firm in the assurance of God’s purpose and power, fully equipped to face any “giant” we encounter—even some of those colossal expenses. Ball fields and auditoriums may not flow with milk and honey, but they are full of good things for those willing to proceed on God’s authority (Numbers 13:2).

When we commit our plans to God before any other commitment—financial or otherwise—we are assured of success (Proverbs 16:3). We cannot anticipate every expense or provide for every need— but God can. When we give God authority over our pursuits, He will equip us so we can pursue them in a way that honors Him.

In addition, we can count on God’s Word to guide us in the best possible use of our resources through:

  • Dedication: Acknowledging that God alone is the source of all we have, we surrender wholly to His authority and pledge our wealth to His purposes (Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Matthew 6:24, Micah 6:8).
  • Stewardship: Since God has entrusted us with resources and holds us accountable as we manage them, we commit to making wise choices (Matthew 25:19-23, I Corinthians 4:2, Proverbs 21:20).
  • Obedience: Our decisions are in accordance with God’s law, and spending is dictated by his mandates rather than worldly demands or temporary desires (Proverbs 11:28, I Timothy 6:17, Luke 12:15).
  • Trust: We rest in the certainty that God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:32b-33).
  • Gratitude: We are content with whatever we have and outwardly thankful for all we receive (Philippians 4:12, Hebrews 13:5, I Timothy 6:6-8, Psalm 50:23, 107:31).
  • Generosity: We respond to God’s provision by helping others in need (Proverbs 19:17, 28:27; II Corinthians 9:6).

Prescriptions for Sticker Shock

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

Whenever we find ourselves living in that credit card commercial, we can count ourselves blessed. Even the “dollar-dollar-dollar” challenges can give us cause to rejoice as we recall how God has already provided. After all, it was God who supplied the means, motive, and opportunity to use our resources this way in the first place. Thanks to Him, we have discretionary money to spend—and at least one child on whom to spend it. That is reason enough to be thankful—not every parent can claim such riches for their children.

If we want to live triumphantly during this season, we need to manage both our finances and our attitudes well. We can count on a positive outlook if we will concentrate on the following:

  • Praise. Every time we open our wallet is just one more opportunity to give thanks to God for enabling us to invest in our children.
  • Perspective. In every aspect of childrearing, we choose to view our responsibilities as burdens or privileges. We can pay the bills with gratitude for the freedom to choose these opportunities at all. For instance, when our son Evan broke his wrist climbing a tree (or more accurately, falling out of one) we had to get it fixed. On the other hand, allowing him play tackle football (and exposing him to more broken bones) was our choice.
  • Proportion. Brent and I like to joke, “It’s an awesome responsibility to raise such talented children!” In other words, if they did not have so many gifts, we wouldn’t be spending so much money. If they weren’t growing in those gifts, the demands on our resources would not increase, either. By the time our son Parker became a provisional black belt, we were spending far more money (and time) at the karate studio than we did when he was still a beginner. By that point, he had shown enough aptitude and dedication to justify greater investment. Our support of our children’s efforts is proportional to their ability and commitment.
  • Perseverance. As the credit card ad reminds us, there are pricey and priceless moments, either of which can take us by surprise. Extracurricular life can be immensely rewarding, but its dividends take time to pay out. Scripture urges us not to get discouraged in the meantime. After all, it is only “through God’s mercy we have this ministry,” so we are not to “lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (II Corinthians 4:1, Galatians 6:9).

Life is full of both “dollar-dollar-dollar” experiences and priceless ones—but they are not the product of plastic cards or open wallets. Such invaluable moments come to obedient hearts fully surrendered to all God has to offer.

Excerpted from When Jesus Takes the Field

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | September 19, 2014

Blessed Be the Ties That Bind

When Brent and I threw a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for our daughter Katherine—and sixteen of her closest friends—we chose the theme “Growing Up Together” to commemorate years of friendship. It was a sweet opportunity to celebrate the lives of these lovely young women and the close bonds they all shared.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Breanna20Breanna was one such friend to join us that evening, a precious girl we consider one of Katherine’s “BFFs.”  The girls were only five when they met in summer dance class.  They hit it off instantly, and mother Julie and I were greatly reassured to learn that our daughters would be starting kindergarten at the same school. We were even more delighted when they ended up in the very same class! And so began a friendship that would carry Katherine and Breanna from that first day of kindergarten all the way to high school graduation—one formed and fostered through this shared love of dance.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAs I looked at all the smiling faces around the table that night, it struck me just how many of Katherine’s friends shared a similar history. Many of the girls were “dance team friends.” Or “choir friends.” Sometimes both. As with many teenagers, my daughter’s teammates had become the core of her high school community. After all, these girls spent hours at practice and miles on the road together. There were onstage performances—and backstage dramas. There was plenty of hard work and light-hearted camaraderie; celebrations, struggles . . .  and even plenty of prayer.

That right there was the best possible reason to celebrate, the thing we were most thankful for. You see, all through those growing-up years, Brent and I had shared our own prayers—that our children would pursue godly friendships. Meanwhile, we had also prayed that God would lead our children into ideal pursuits—the kind that would honor Him and bless our children.

However, never could we have anticipated how He would weave those two requests together, answering them beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  Not only did He bring godly friends and role models into our children’s lives, He also directed them toward activities in which godly friends would meet, learn and grow together. These “choir friends” and “dance friends” were united not only in their common interests and mutual affection—but in their deep love for Christ. While they didn’t necessarily belong to the same church or denomination, they shared a profound faith which sustained them all through “the thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” both on and off the field.

And that was the sweetest gift we could ask for.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed . . . three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12 (NLT)

2011 Fiesta Texas

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 21, 2014

Selective Service

jesus wants you

This is the third in a series of posts following the impact of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life in the life of this recovering perfectionist. You will find additional posts in the Braver Living category. Meanwhile, hear what other brave rebels are saying or get your own prescription for The Cure at http://www.thecurefortheperfectlife.com/talking.php

 “Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them. Which of these are you, or would you rather not bother?” ― Maurice Flanagan

My answer? I will go to great bother just to avoid leadership. I’m happy to serve the public, just as long as I don’t have to do it in public. When it comes to leadership, I am a dedicated draft-dodger. However, once Cheri and Kathi identified fear as “the main force of try-harder living,” I had to come face-to-face with my cowardice at the prospect of leadership. This was the internal battle I faced every time I was asked to lead:

“Responsibility—especially leadership/public responsibility—is AGONIZING & TERRIFYING. What if I fail? As a leader, failure = I let others down—and even more ‘others’ will SEE ME DO IT.”

As a busy mom of four active children, I’m asked continually to sign up for volunteer responsibilities. Every year I must carefully decide who/what/when/where/how I will serve. The leaders of the Braver Living Rebellion recommend the following chain of command prior to enlisting:

  • Ask God;
  • Ask a significant other;
  • Ask for specific details. What is the extent of this commitment? Am I fit for this particular duty at this time?

I was first introduced to such tactics years ago in Denise Glenn’s study Motherwise: Freedom for Mothers. Since then, I’ve had numerous opportunities to witness firsthand what happens when: 1) I enlist my husband as my ally and first line of defense; and 2) I do my best to get down to the “brass tacks” of the assignment before committing to it.

However, ultimately the most critical step is leaving God in charge of recruitment.  As Cheri and Kathi point out, “When God asks you to get involved, trust and obey. Pause. Pray. Be still and know that it’s God calling before answering yes.” For one who fears leadership like I do, obedience to God is often the only thing that outranks fear.

God. Other. Details. This strategy was never more crucial than this past year, when I was thrust into a leadership role of epic proportions.  It started peaceably enough. Susan, a comrade-in-arms on the volunteer front, asked if she could nominate me to an advisory committee for an upcoming school bond issue. Was I willing to serve?

Before I could give an answer, though, I had lots of questions. Since I was pretty green when it came to school administration, school finances, or school politics, I first had to ask, “Why me?” My friend and sponsor listed some assets I could bring to the committee table. Having worked with me on committees for years, she’s qualified to say so. Since I’ve known her for years, I was inclined to trust her judgment.

Next I asked about the details, and learned that the committee would meet for a few hours every Monday evening during the month of February. Then I asked my significant other what he thought. He reminded me of my passion for this kind of service, and offered his worst-case scenario: “If you say no, I think you might regret it.”

Most importantly, I turned the matter over to God. Before I answered to anyone else, I responded to Him with my own version of, “Let it be to me according to your will.” Then I left it to God to call me up as He saw fit.

In the end, I said, “Yes.” Yes to my friend.  Yes to my husband. Yes to the opportunity. Yes to the responsibility. And most importantly, I said “Yes” to God.

Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.

Lucky for me, because only God understood all that I agreed to. Without realizing it, I had just said “yes” to unprecedented leadership and responsibility—a role that grew until it took over my home life, my personal life and my spiritual life. Only God could have predicted how quickly a simple peacekeeping mission would turn into a reenactment of World War III, complete with heavy combat and high casualties—and only God could arm me for the fight to come:

  • Only God could have transferred this lowly grunt to serve alongside such high-ranking officers as the superintendent and president of the school board.
  • Only God could prepare me to speak before PTAs, school board trustees, city council members—and the press.
  • When I gave up precious hours that spring reserved for my graduating senior, only God could redeem the sacrifice.
  • When I had to leave family behind for meetings and other maneuvers, only God could care for them in my absence.
  • As “three nights in February” became an extended tour of duty lasting for months, only God could help me endure to the end.
  • Only God could guard my name, my heart and my sanity as the controversy turned every friend into an ally—or an enemy.
  • Only God could have promoted me so far out of my comfort zone all the way to the front lines—and only God could protect me fully once I got there.

Never have I held a leadership role more public—or more terrifying. Thousands of students and millions of dollars were at stake—and failure was most definitely an option. Only God could command me to fight for such a thing, only God could equip me for battle—and in the end, only God could deliver victory.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

That Election Day, we won the vote and passed the bond by a nail-biting margin of two percent. On the other hand, I enjoyed a pretty decisive victory in my own personal battle against fear. I don’t ever need to be afraid to lead—so long as that leadership begins and ends by following God. Only God.

Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go. Joshua 1:9

Only God can do such things. John 9:33 (The Voice)

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 13, 2014

Summertime . . . and the Livin’ Ain’t So Easy

summertime livinSummertime has often been a challenge in our household. When the kids were little—back when “the years go by fast, but the days go so slow”—summer practically came to a standstill. There was never enough to do. During long weeks of triple-digit heat, it seemed heartless to insist that we go to the park or the zoo. One. More. Time.

Fast-forward a few years, and now the problem with summer is that it goes by too fast. There is never enough time for all the things we want and need to do—but can’t get around to during the hectic school year. Somewhere along the way, summertime has become the “junk drawer” for all the work and play we shove aside during nine months of busyness.

However, it wasn’t until I read The Cure for the “Perfect” Life that I discovered my real problem with summer. Authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp introduced me to the real culprits responsible for my summer struggles. Every year, the procrastination, perfomancism and perfectionism bullies (or “P-bullies,” for short) have been ganging up to sabotage my summer.

From August to May, procrastination herds me forward, promising ample time, energy and family cooperation to finish everything I feel guilty about for neglecting during the school year.  I can go through papers . . . clean out closets . . . have people over for dinner . . . in the summer. For nine long months, procrastination convinces me to sidestep such things like a modern-day Scarlett O’Hara chanting, “I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about it . . . in the summer.

By the time we reach May, performancism steps in with staggering assignments for everyone. I’ve even created summer “To Do” lists for my kids, optimistically titled Family Summer Goals. Under headings like Study, Skills and Service, my “helpful survey” includes questions to my children such as “this summer, I want to learn more about . . .” and “I would like to see us help others by . . .”

Performancism works extra-hard in the summer, hoping to get the most out of summer work and play. A true show-off, performancism needs impressive answers to the typical question, “What did you do on your summer vacation?”

Procrastination and perfomancism drive me toward summer, where perfectionism waits in ambush. It blinds me with glaringly high expectations, insisting that I can indeed achieve the perfection I crave . . . in the summer.

Finally! I’m going to clean out all the closets! Reconcile all the bank statements and go through all the files! Finish all those incomplete scrapbooks! Make sure my children watch less TV/ read more books/learn more/serve others more. In the summer, I will finally realize my dream of the perfect home . . . perfect parenthood . . . perfect life.

Perfection, it seems, is just on the horizon . . . in the summer. As it turns out, “the horizon is just an imaginary line that recedes as we approach it.”

Let’s face it. If I could miraculously accomplish everything on my impossible list in three short months, I’d need to summon up a miracle that could make me more disciplined, more focused and more productive than I am the other three-fourths of the year. I’d have to move faster and work even harder in a season tailor-made for slowing down and taking it easy. Sounds perfectly ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Cure-for-the-Perfect-Life-Cover-3D_LeftThankfully, with the help of Cheri, Kathi, and their gallant band of braver living rebels, I’ve found there is a cure for the summertime blues. I’ve decided to send the P-bullies on a permanent vacation and reclaim summer once and for all!

A recent Facebook status captures one of the best things I “did on my summer vacation:”

“I never really knew how tired I was until I stopped letting the P-bullies nag, hound and drive me from morning ‘til night! Looks like I may not have to wait until I’m dead to rest after all . . . tonight I shut them down and spent a lovely, relaxing moment doing nothing other than sit outside to enjoy the cool evening, pet my dog, and watch my husband and son work on a fun project all their own—hammers and nails and power tools, oh my!

It was . . . dare I say . . . perfect?!”

If you’d like to make summer living—or any other season—a little easier, join the rebellion, and learn how doing nothing may be one of the bravest things you can “do!”

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 5, 2014

Writing Blog Tour

blog tour

 

I am very thankful to my dear friend and sister-in-the-faith Paige Brooks for tagging me in this Blog Tour. It’s been a sweet privilege to study God’s word both alongside and under her. Paige’s original work, Immeasurable Life: A Study of the Letter to the Ephesians was certainly an immeasurable blessing in my life!

Paige is a gifted writer who currently has several projects in the works, including a website for women who want to dig deeper into God’s Word, a children’s curriculum for new believers called Investig8, and her Bible study on Ephesians.

What are you working on?

I’m very excited to be working on my first book, When Jesus Takes the Field: Reclaiming Kids’ Activities (and Busy Families) for God’s Kingdom. Designed for active Christian families, the book offers a faith-based approach to extracurricular pursuits such as arts and athletics.

Family life today has been radically altered by children’s extracurricular activities. Families spend more hours in organized activities than ever, sacrificing precious leisure time to shuttle their offspring between ball fields, gymnasiums, and studios. Activities intended to enrich the lives of children threaten to bankrupt their parents. No longer “just for fun,” recreation has practically become its own religion.

As a “soccer mom” and veteran of many other kids’ activities, I address these challenges as I invite parents behind the scenes of today’s organized activities. We’ll explore the allure and potential idolatry of these pursuits, and then discover how to follow and serve God through every aspect of extracurricular life. We’ll learn how to partner with God as he equips our children for his purposes, using biblical truth to:

  • Create a winning game plan for family activities;
  • Become better stewards of resources such as time and money;
  • Withstand both “the thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” with dignity and grace;
  • Identify God’s expectations for team players and good sports; and
  • Grow beyond mere spectators to effective witnesses and disciples on (and off) the field.

If you’re interested in teaming up with other parents on this issue, please meet us at the field in our Facebook group!

I’ve also been privileged to be part of the launch team for an amazing new book, The Cure for the Perfect Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver. I’ll be continuing to post about my experiences as part of the Braver Living Rebellion here!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

There just aren’t that many resources available to coach parents for success in the area of children’s extracurriculars, and those that do take a primarily secular approach. As active families rush the playing field in ever-growing numbers, I’ve witnessed a growing need for both practical and spiritual help. I pray that my book will help meet that need.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m convinced that we all have something important to say! God taught me a long time ago that it is because of Him that we have a story to tell—and it is for Him that we tell it.

As to why I write what I write—well, I tried to explain this to a pastor once, who concluded that my writing is a kind of “literary sanctification”—i.e., it is through writing that God grows and refines me. He has a way of pulling words out of me that provide such wisdom and encouragement I just want to share them with others.

Those would be the more “spiritual” answer, I guess—but to be honest, the reason I started writing at all is because it’s the only way I’ve found to silence the voices in my head. Sometimes it’s a joy—and sometimes it’s just an exorcism!

How does your writing process work?

My favorite description of the artistic process comes from the movie Amadeus. Mozart assures a patron that the opera is entirely finished—in his head. The rest, he promises, is just “bibbling and scribbling.”

In my head, I’m certain I have inspired masterpieces—until it all falls apart during the “bibbling and scribbling.” One technique that has helped tremendously is something I learned from Robin Stanley at CLASS Seminars. I’ll grab a stack of loose-leaf paper and my favorite “flowy” pen, and write without stopping, scratching out or editing in any way. Once that’s done, I can type, edit and polish it up until it’s fit to share. It’s just as they say, “the first draft is written with the heart, and the second draft with the head.” Works for me!

Next up:

Next week we will hear from:

Vanessa LeRow. I have been equally blessed to study God’s Word with and from Vanessa. She has a beautiful heart, a powerful story and an authentic way of sharing it all with her readers. In her own words, Vanessa confesses, “I’m a mess. Seriously, my nickname growing up was Messy Nessy. I believe that Jesus is the only One who can make beauty out of my messes and anyone else’s mess-if we let Him. He’s my only hope as I parent four kids, love my husband deeply, serve others with gratitude and humility, and write words that hopefully make sense. I’ve yet to accomplish any of that in one day. Just keepin’ it real…”

Jennifer Kampermann. Jennifer is an powerful advocate for children as well as a passionate writer, and I’ve had the privilege of speaking and serving alongside Jennifer in our school district. Jennifer understands that “as mothers, we face many challenges in raising our girls; and our girls face many challenges in learning how to maneuver in today’s world.” Her blog A Healthy Woman is committed to building strong women inside and out.

Soon I hope to introduce you to Holly Baxley. Holly is an incredibly talented writer, singer, composer and web designer, not to mention my dear friend and “travelin’ buddee.” Holly is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and she has cheered me on as a writer ever since!

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 4, 2014

Marching to Bravery (One Baby Step at a Time)

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf you drive around central Texas at all, you may notice a woman wildly waving her arms in the car. That could be me.

I am also a woman who responds to stress with anger. Since I live in a busy household of six active people, it’s not hard to find things to get stressed about—and easy to find targets for my anger. So my family and I can all be grateful that I joined the launch team for The Cure for the Perfect Life. Under the talented direction of authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp, I have made a significant about-face to both stress and anger.

Just in time, too, as we’ve had an unusual amount of financial stress around here. With one child headed back to college, one headed to the open road (new driver insurance!) and a third headed to the orthodontist (braces!!), we are anticipating one of the most expensive years we have had in a long time. We’ve really had to tighten some belts and step out in faith.

Recently Brent and I were recounting over dinner all the times God had been faithful to take care of us in the money department. Good to remember. It must have also been part of His providence that I had just finished reading Chapter 12, This Probably Isn’t the End of the World, that very night.

The next morning I was humming a cheerful tune as I silenced a couple of “People-Pleasing bullies” (Chapter 2) while attempting to accommodate the expectations and busy schedules of five other people. Bravo, Pam!

However, my careful arrangement hit a sour note when a neighbor returned our two prodigal dogs to the backyard—and one of them was limping. I ended up rushing from our scheduled appointment with the dentist to take my injured dog to an unexpected stop at the vet’s.

At Stop #1 I learned my 16-year-old needed his wisdom teeth out. Soon. Cha-ching! At Stop #2, we discovered Eddie had a broken ankle and needed orthopedic dog surgery. Double cha-ching!

Breathe, Pam. Pray. It’s not the End of the World.

I didn’t handle it perfectly at all—I exited the dentist’s office with a huffy, “I really didn’t need to hear this today!” I exiled my daughter from the vet’s exam room when I couldn’t take her barking at her brother a moment longer. Once home, I collapsed on my bed and refused to take another step, as exhausted as if I’d just marched in a five-hour parade. But I did take some pretty big “baby steps” that day:

  • As I hurried from one appointment to the next, I made sure to control my breathing, open my eyes, and smile, if not laugh (page 134). I felt like a grinning idiot—but I felt so much better!
  • I asked for help (Chapter 19). I asked the dental staff to help get us out the door in time to make it to the vet. I asked the vet to explain things to me as quickly as possible so that I could stop dreading the problem and start dealing with it. I asked my two closest BFF’s to listen and pray.
  • I refused to take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings (Chapter 15). Instead I gave my family room to maneuver through their emotions, their way. One child became self-centered and insensitive; another was hyper-sensitive. One kid tried to regain control by bossing others around—and the “big kid” lost control with a few choice swearwords. While in the past I would have tried to judge and fix everyone else, this time I could understand and accept—at least, a little better!
  • I prayed (page 138): for the dog, for my kids, for me—and especially for my husband. There was no gracious way to prepare Brent for such unexpected and upsetting news, yet he had to be told—and soon.
  • Throughout the day, I sought every opportunity to tone down my discordant emotions. I admit, some were a little indulgent—but pizza and chocolate have medicinal qualities, right?

Finally, I gave myself the time and space I needed to navigate my big emotions (page 138). Driving home later that night, I found all the space I needed once I turned on the CD player and heard Stars and Stripes Forever.

At the push of a button, an entire marching band filled my little car—and I was quick to join the parade. Soon I was banging drums (aka, the steering wheel) and waving my hands energetically as I conducted for an audience of one. Trust me, it’s almost impossible to feel bad when you’re leading a Sousa march—and nothing beats it for drowning out the P-bullies!

So the next time you see some woman waving her arms in the car, she could just be another brave rebel who’s discovered The Cure for the Perfect Life.

Cure-for-the-Perfect-Life-COVER-1000-x-1545-662x1024

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 2, 2014

The EXTRA! in Extracurriculars

Exactly what are extracurriculars? Webster defines them as “extra activities (such as sports) that can be done by the students in a school but that are not part of the regular schedule of classes.” Those are what most of us think of when we hear the word—athletics, arts and other pursuits that take place inside the school, but outside the classroom.

They are considered extras for good reason. No matter where or when our children pursue them, they are just that. Additional. Optional. Want-to’s versus have-to’s. Unlike other parenting imperatives such as food, clothing, shelter and education, extracurricular activities are not mandatory. We can offer them—or not—however we see fit, accountable to no authority but our own.

After all, Child Protective Services will never investigate a case of parental neglect due to “failure to provide violin lessons.” The truancy officer won’t come knocking because Johnny missed one too many t-ball practices. And we’re not likely to get a call from the Children’s Minister because she hasn’t seen Susie around the gymnastics studio lately. Growing our children in “wisdom, stature and favor” doesn’t exactly require music theory, volleyball or summer camps!

In short, these activities are extra—add-ons to the basic necessities children require. Meanwhile, they come with an impressive roster of extras all their own, which only expand as involvement increases:extra favorite

  • Extra costs. Extracurricular activities stretch household resources of time and money. Even those activities provided courtesy of school hours and school funding will make a play for the family calendar and bank account.
  • Extra identity. For children and parents alike, team membership affects the way others see us—and and how we see ourselves.
  • Extra authority figures. Coaches, directors and other instructors have considerable influence over our children through these activities.
  • Extra relationships. It’s not uncommon for close connections to develop among teammates—and team parents.
  • Extra emotions. The “thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” make for a pretty intense roller coaster ride for everyone involved. Get ready to hang on tight!
  • Extra decisions. Today’s extracurricular choices are incredibly varied. Parents hoping to pick the best activity for their child are likely to run out of time, funds and patience before they run out of options.
  • Extra horizons. Extracurricular activities can be highly mobile, and active families may find their “territory enlarged” across town, across the state—or even around the world.

For those who hope to reclaim kids’ activities for God’s kingdom, we will need additional measures of Divine wisdom, guidance and grace, especially since there is one more extra in our lineup:

Extra witness. In the extracurricular arena, followers of Christ are much more than spectators. We can “walk the walk” while sitting in the stands or auditorium, and we can offer hope to a defeated world desperately looking for a win.

As members of God’s team, consider all the extras we can bring to the game! What it means to be recruited by Someone so wholly committed to victory. To have the world’s greatest Coach ready to train us as his Most Valuable Players. To trust in a Referee with the authority to blow the whistle whenever we step out of bounds. Just imagine how the game could change if everyone—children and parents—played by God’s rules:

We could trust all our precious resources to the One who is trustworthy to provide.

We could take our positions with the assurance that comes from our identity in Christ.

We could respect human authorities out of respect for a Sovereign God who calls us to live surrendered, obedient lives.

We could weather wins and losses with dignity and poise.

With mercy, humility and grace, we could restore beauty to a competitive world made ugly by antagonism, hostility and pride. As we love and serve our fellow teammates with generosity, forgiveness and compassion, we could depict lives fully reclaimed by Christ.

 

 

 

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | May 6, 2014

Diner’s Guide to Summer Fun

activity plateI love a good all-you-can-eat buffet—my very favorite meal is the kind that includes “a little bit of a lot.”

I look forward to summer activities for the same reason. Having spent the school year with a full plate and steady diet of soccer practice, dance lessons, games and performances, I’m ready for a change. Summer is the perfect time to slow down, relax, and enjoy nibbling from the “extracurricular buffet” available courtesy of seasonal camps and classes.

With so much to choose from in our community, here are a few recommendations for the Summer Menu:

“I’ll Have What She’s Having.”

It always seems that the most appetizing dish  . . . is the one on someone else’s plate! Is there an activity you’ve been eying from afar? Summer is a great time to try it. Personal recommendations offer a logical starting point, so make the most of reviews from trusted activity critics:

  • What did you like best about this activity?
  • Who do you like best for this activity?
  • What (if anything) would you do differently next time?

Family Style

During the school year, it’s a challenge to get everyone to the table together, let alone engaged in the same activity! Take advantage of the summertime lull to check out local services and studios for family classes and discounts. (We spent an unforgettable season learning kicks and punches together in a family martial arts class. There is nothing like practicing self-defense moves with one’s husband for creating an epic date night!)

Just Like Mom Used to Make

As we equip our children in their gifts and talents, let’s not forget to include a few servings of our own! Over the years, I’ve made a point to hand down a few time-honored recipes for family fun.

dollhouseMy mother and I once built a dollhouse together, sparking a lifelong interest/obsession in miniatures that I have shared with my children. It took us a couple of attempts and many years to finish our own house properly, but the result was beautiful—as were the memories created in the process. My teenage daughter and I spent a precious summer discussing cars and boys as we painted trim and pasted wallpaper!

You never know where such interests may lead. I first discovered archery at summer camp as the perfect sport for the hopeless athlete. (Good marksmen are those who excel in not moving!) I found it so rewarding I thought it might make an interesting summer pastime for my kids.  With the help of Midway P.E. teacher/archery coach Brenda Schaefer, we got the basic equipment and took aim in our backyard. Our son Evan loved it so much he went on to compete with South Bosque’s National Archery in the Schools Program—all the way to the national tournament! (If he keeps it up, he might even qualify for college money for archers.)

  • What are some interests or activities you pursued as a child?
  • What do you love to do as an adult? What are some of your gifts and talents?
  • How can you share these with your child(ren)?

Feed the Hungry

Volunteer efforts never fail to be nutritious and satisfying for all. Don’t wait for the holidays to make community service a cherished family tradition. There are many ways for individuals and families to help others during the summer; with numerous services to choose from, you are sure to find the best fit for your family schedule and palate.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SUMMERTIME MENU

As you nibble, sample and snack from the best that summer activities have to offer, take note of those that you want to include as regular fall fare.

Read the Label. Take advantage of the Internet by checking out league/studio websites for plenty of useful information. In addition to class schedules and contact information, many also post photo galleries, mission statements and more. Follow on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.

Feel free to call for more information before committing to enrollment, especially the long-term kind. Any worthwhile director will be happy to answer your questions, and some will even invite you to come in for a more personal discussion. With such a wide variety of options, you are entitled to learn all you can as you seek to make the best choice for your child.

Taste-Test. Become an invested spectator by taking a front row seat at many extracurricular activities.

  • Daily. Many studios have viewing facilities that allow you to drop by and watch classes in session.
  • Seasonally. On any given Saturday, on ball fields and in gyms all over town, our children are competing in team sports:  football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc. Attending games is a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy some lively competition, as well as an opportunity to support friends. (Be sure and watch the coaches and parents, along with the players!)
  • Annually. Late May/early June is prime time for dance recitals.  In a few short hours, experience the best that local studios have to offer.

If you enjoy what you see, what you hear—and who you run into—you will likely appreciate adding these activities to your plate. It’s a challenge to keep the active family fed—but perhaps a stop at the summer buffet will make it a little more appetizing.

Good luck—and happy dining!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Activity Directories:

Recommended Reading:

 

 

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | April 8, 2014

Lent Day 35 Reflection

Originally posted on Harris Creek Baptist Church:

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
- Proverbs 31:25 -

You know you’re a “team” parent when . . . you have an entire section of your closet devoted to spirit wear.

With four active children, team t-shirts have taken over my hangers and drawers the same way team activities monopolize my calendar and my checkbook. I grumble while buying them—but I am only too happy to wear them! The uniform of choice for any spectator parent, spirit wear marks me as a busy but devoted mother.

FamilypicI was so excited when our daughter made the high school dance team that I couldn’t wait to put on my Midway Goal Tenders t-shirt, with “Katherine’s Mom” personalized on the back. I continued to wear some variation of it to every football game, all season long . . . four years in…

View original 463 more words

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