Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lessons from Kathryn:
Knock "should" out of your vocabulary

How do you know what anyone should or shouldn't do?  The answer is, with the exception of few things, you don't.

I have written a series here on the blog, "Lessons from Kathryn".  She's the person who has served as my manager at NextJob for most of my employment there, and that recently changed within the last few weeks.  She is still at the company however she has been promoted to a  new position.  While she is no longer my day to day manager, we still talk on a constant basis.  Her value in my life is not limited to positional authority and I am still in close relationship and learning from her whether she is overseeing me or not.  I think we've actually talked more since she's not my manager than we did before!  Incidentally, I am also in very good relationship with my new manager, Tina, who was responsible for bringing me to the company in the first place and is a great manager and leader to learn from as well.

There's something Kathryn taught me a long time ago that I'm just starting to realize the full value in now.  We haven't even talked about this in months but our prior conversation is now bubbling to the surface and I'm applying it to my life.

Kathryn told me that should is the weakest motivational word ever and needs to be avoided whenever possible.  For instance, think about this...if you say, "I should do the dishes..." how powerful is that?  Not very.  Many times when I say that I don't end up doing them!  Now think about this -- if you say, "I will do the dishes" or "I am doing the dishes" powerful is that?  Incredibly.  You'll more than likely get them done. Self talk is very powerful and just a slight change in wording makes all the difference.

There are also shoulds that can be very judgmental.  Due to my core values and belief system based upon the Bible, I believe  a few shoulds are approriate but incredibly limited.  The shoulds in my life are limited to what Jesus actually told me to do.  This is where Kathryn and I part ways in thinking on this, I'm sure, as we are different in some of our faith beliefs.  I believe commands in the scripture are the appropriate "shoulds". Things Jesus commanded me to do (like love or pursuing holiness or purity) are not maybe's, or up for discussion.  However, anything else varies from person to person and needs to be between them and God.  I've had to make some changes in this regard in the way I judge others and I have to let others judgment of me roll off. What do I mean by this?  Well, here are some examples:

"You should keep a clean house.  Cleanliness is next to godliness."  (You don't find that in the scriptures, it's just old wives tale wisdom, but anyway...)  It is a good thing to keep a clean house?  Sure.  But Everyone can't to the same level of ability and people have different struggles and needs.  This is an example of  inappropriate and unrealistic "should".   Right now certain things in my house are an absolute mess but my physical and emotional needs are more important than taking care of those issues.

"You should answer all of your personal e-mails within 24 hours."  This is a lofty goal but some days it has almost emotionally and physically killed me.  I get about 300 emails a day between all of my jobs.  I try my best but sometimes I just don't them all turned around in 24 hours.  It's a nice goal but I don't put answering my e-mail up there with not committing adultery.

"You should go to people's special events when invited, to show your support."  This is also a nice goal but when you pastor a church of several hundred people you also get invited to an amazing array of birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, wedding showers, etc.  If I did all of these I would never get a free moment to breathe.  Jesus did tell me to love my neighbor but he didn't say, "this mean you go to 100 birthday parties a year."

"Shoulds" when placed in inappropriate places and sentences bring undue stress, and even judgment.  I believe in my personal case, I've even experienced physical sickness because I focused on "should's".  It would be helpful to decrease the shoulds from our vocabularies.  While Kathryn has taken it entirely out of hers, I still can't manage to go that far as a believer but other than the shoulds that Jesus placed in my life I'm working on living a relatively should-free life. 

Thanks Kathryn, for another great lesson.  I'll always be learning from you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I need my medication!!!

There comes a time when you are face to face with your own spiritual, physical and emotional well being.

A time when pleasing  people fades into the background and doing what you need to do to take proper care of yourself comes into focus.

I am feeling little tolerance for anything stressful right now.  I'm losing concern for what happens around me as long as it just doesn't drive my stress level up any further than it already is.

I'm gaining the power to set boundaries and not really care who gets mad at me.

I'm so there.

Excuse me while I go take some deep breaths and then hug my dog Max.  He is otherwise known as "Meds".  He truly is my medication.  He is the only medication I am currently on.  And it's my goal for it to stay that way.   Every time I hug him I feel my blood pressure go down.  I'm not imagining this.  Studies show when you pet your dog, your blood pressure goes down.

Now if I could just take Max everywhere with me 24/7, I'd be all set.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Favorite surprise visit - EVER!!!
In the presence of greatness...

Last night Larry was absolutely SHOCKED out of his mind to see this couple walk in the doors of the church.  What a reunion they had!  He couldn't wait to run down to the sanctuary and tell me they were here!  He hasn't seen them since he went away to bible college as a teenager, however I have heard about them literally hundreds of times and our church has heard all the stories about them too.  When we told the church, "Bro. and Sis. B are here!!", they knew right away who we were talking about and welcomed them with open arms, applause and excitement.

The Bertoluzzi's are a couple from Pittsburgh who reached out and cared about my husband when he was just a very young man in junior high school.  My husband came to Jesus at 13 years old when his junior high school friend Darren Daugherty (Now Dr. Darren Daugherty, professor at Southwestern University of the AG) invited him to his youth group at Christian Life (AG) church in Trafford, PA.  My husband went to church with Darren and gave his life to Jesus and was changed forever.  At the time my husband's family didn't go to church.  He was a young man attending church alone.  He needed other adults in his life to care, to reach out.  He had a great youth pastor, Steve Ashworth, and great friends like Darren but he also needed older mothers and fathers in the faith who would reach out.  Three times a week, Keith Bertoluzzi would pick  Larry up for church.  If it wasn't for Bro. B., Larry would have had no way to get to church.  On those rides he learned significant things about the Christian life and faith, and family.

Keith and Mary Jean Bertoluzzi weren't at a loss for other things to do.  They were busy raising a family of seven children.  Keith was the music teacher at the local public junior high school and he also played as a professional musician with major acts including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Johnny Mathis and many other greats.  He was often a featured performer at the "Holiday House" in Pittsburgh.  He  wasn't a man who had nothing else to do but pick kids up for church but he always made time for it.   At one time he packed 17 kids in his van to bring them to church!!  The many "kids" that Keith and Mary Jean reached out to over all those years are now making significant impacts all across the world. Some are pastors, others missionaries, others marketplace ministers.  They have gone on to pay it forward and make a difference for someone else.  Mary Jean couldn't help but have eyes brimming with tears when she saw our children last night and how they are making an impact for the Lord.  When I told her Dustin is just a few classes away from getting his ministerial credentials with the AG, eyes glistening she said, "Second generation, Deanna!  There's nothing like it!!!"  Indeed.

Keith and Mary Jean were not just a couple who picked Larry up for church...they were an example for him of a Christian married couple, mature in the faith.  When he introduced them to me, I thanked them for my husband!  If it wasn't for them, he wouldn't have been able to attend Christian Life AG which was the first church where he received the initial spiritual training to be the man, husband, father, pastor that he is today.

The Bertoluzzi's are here on vacation and decided to drop in as a surprise and attend our service.  Many tears were shed.  We didn't want to part!  The fellowship was so sweet.  They attended our Fusion service and had so many nice things to say, and everyone surrounded them with appreciation.  Person after person said, "thank you for our pastor!!"  We went to dinner afterwards and they insisted on treating us when it should have been the other way around but they simply wouldn't hear of it. We reminisced and talked about stories "back in the day" and although I wasn't there back in the day , I already knew all the stories because Larry has shared them with me over and over throughout our 24 years of marriage and two years of dating!  It was nothing short of an amazing night of recalling all the wonderful things God did and the great people He is doing them through!!  Bro. B had tears stream down his face, humbled and amazed in realizing all of the young people they impacted over the years just by reaching out and picking them up for church, and how they are making a difference in the world today.  "This is our favorite part of this vacation!!" Sis B. smiled and shared several times..."we couldn't wait to get here and see you and the church and all God is doing here."  She then shared that one day she turned on her TV (they have SkyAngel) and saw me on the "Homekeepers with Arthlene Rippy" show on the Christian Television Network being interviewed and she said, "Oh my word, look Keith, that's Larry Shrodes wife...our Larry Shrodes!!!"  She said, "we were so proud, Deanna...we just couldn't wait to meet you."   

The feeling was mutual.  I have finally met the Bro. and Sis. B. that I have heard about time and time again, and they more than live up to their reputation.  Only eternity will reveal the full impact of their ministry.  

There really are no words to describe what took place last night but I will just close with what I told the church last night.  I said, "Celebrators, tonight we are in the presence of greatness."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lunch love

Allow me to introduce you to my latest love affair that I'm having at lunch.  So yummy!  Try this...

Take a whole wheat Sandwich Thin (Arnold brand pictured here.  Right now my favorite are the "All Natural Flax & Fiber" ones.)

Spread 1 Tbsp of Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese on it 

Top with a 2 slices of low fat turkey breast or low fat roast beef on it.  (I also get low sodium)

Enjoy!  (6 pts. on WW Plus)

I am absolutely crazy about this and eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner at times.  Simple, and deeeelicious!  Sometimes if I have the extra point and want more cream cheese I add one more Tbsp.

This week I have enjoyed it as well as another new lunch love, introduced to me by my friend Patrice Migliore Viscuso (a friend from bible college days, also a fellow Weight Watcher).  The follow soup has ZERO points.  That's right, nada, zip, ZERO!  I'm a soup lover and eat it even in the summertime.  It really helps me stay on track and I normally make a pot of soup on the weekend and then eat it throughout the week for a few days and also freeze a few containers for weeks that I am too busy to make soup.  On those weeks I pull out a container from my freezer stash.  This week I made two soups, chicken noodle and this one below, and I will alternate eating them for lunch on different days.

Butternut Squash Soup

3 boxes of frozen butternut squash
24 oz. of unsweetened applesauce
1 can of chicken broth

Melt squash on low heat, add other ingredients. You can also sprinkle with things like basil, cinnamon or maybe some chile powder…whatever your taste.

Enjoy these healthy creations that are also quick and easy to make, and join me in watching the pounds disappear.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My interview on the subject of leadership...

I was interviewed recently by a Southeastern University student on the subject of leadership. I wanted to share it for those who might have interest.  

Interview with Deanna Shrodes on Leadership

1.    How would you define and explain your leadership style?

I’m a confident leader yet I thrive on finding the potential in others and helping them flourish.  I am not threatened by others with great talent or potential, rather I rejoice in releasing them to their fullest.  My leadership style on a day to day basis could be described as organized with an attention to detail  but I don’t have a problem delegating or releasing and I don’t like to micromanage.   While I don’t have a passion for babysitting I do enjoy leading.

2.    What plans do you have that could cause staff or church members to become uneasy but feel as though the intended outcome justify the means? – Regarding maintaining ethics and promoting change.

I love prayerfully pushing the envelope and doing things others haven’t done before.  In the past I led a bar hopping outreach with our choir in Maryland .  We went to different bars and did some of our Christmas arrangements and gave out free Bibles.  People loved it and it made the front page of the local paper and subsequently the Billy Graham  Association heard about it and called to interview me for “Decision Today.”   On another occasion we hosted a “Texas Hold Em” outreach for the young adults of the community.  There was no gambling involved.  They just played for free prizes but it brought some new young adults  into the church.  I don’t believe in doing things just for shock value but for a genuine purpose – reaching people in bars who might not step into church, or young people who are also not interested in church – yet – it was worth it.  If there is a not a strategic opportunity for response in these type of outreaches I would pretty much consider them worthless.  To me, ascertaining the motivation for such an event would be the first order of business in maintaining ethics. 

3.    How will you determine what decisions to proceed with that may benefit some at the expense of others?

Prayer!!!  That is not a cliché.  I am a person of prayer and value it above most anything else in my personal life or in the church.   Nothing great happens without prayer and no significant decision should ever be made without it unless you would like to create a recipe for disaster.

4.    In regards to your plan for change how do you intend to influence follower commitment and optimism? 

First, it helps in leading our current church for 9 years and our previous for 9 years as well before that people know by now that we are not bringing anything before them without having saturated it in prayer.  There is something to be said for the longevity of a leader.  When I bring it before them I say, “I’d like to share something with you and I have prayed about this…”  Of course when I say that I really MEAN IT, it’s not just some “God card” that I throw around.  I think that’s really important that as leaders we don’t ever throw God or prayer around as a tool to bully people or get our way all the time.  When we say we’ve prayed and God has spoken to us to lead, we better be genuine about that or I would really question our integrity as leaders.  After praying it through I would let them know of my personal investment in the project.  As far as optimism, I get excited about it and talk it up every chance I get.  If a leader isn’t excited, why should anyone else be?  I talk it up on various social media as well as in person just sitting and having coffee with people, teaching  from the pulpit, etc.

5.    How do you deal with conflict? Employees questioning your authority? Parents? Stakeholders?

This is a loaded question and one that doesn’t have a neat and tidy answer for all situations.  I believe a lot is contingent upon the situation.  I believe that in the case of employees it’s important to have a very detailed job description as well as policies and procedures manual that is a good springboard with which to work from.  It’s important to handle things in a firm, fair and consistent manner, and also document things well.  Employees should know coming in exactly what’s expected.  Now I realize some people are going to have an issue anyway and in those cases I believe dealing with it sooner rather than later is always the answer (have learned this the hard way!) and document things very well.   

In the case of parents, stakeholders, church members, etc. I believe communication early, often and clearly is important.  It’s not just important to communicate something in a timely fashion,  it has to be clear to be effective.  As a leader you can get up and say a whole bunch of nothing.  You’ve communicated but not clearly and therein lies the difference.  Statistics tell us most people don’t really get something until they hear it seven times.  I not only believe in telling people something, but repeating it , and in different ways if they haven’t gotten the message accurately the first, second or third time, etc.  Now in the cases where they openly rebel against my authority I believe in handling it as peacefully as possible and by the principles of Matthew 18.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be firm sometimes but I believe most anything can be said in love.  It does take TIME to do so, and more thoughtfulness than saying the first thing that comes to mind.  I have learned to be slower to speak when addressing a conflict.  That doesn’t mean I don’t deal with it right away, but when I do I choose my words more carefully. 

I have also learned to involve other leaders according to what is laid out in Matthew 18.  After dealing with someone alone the first time if they continue to cause an issue I take a leader or two with me, or in some cases the leaders will address that person for me.  The Bible says to “mark those who cause division among you.”  I have had to mark a few people and allow the leadership to do what leaders should be set free to do – lead.  

6.    If some kind of confusing event happened (like a shooting) how would you interpret the event (for others, press release) to build consensus around strategies for dealing with threats and opportunities?

I believe it’s important especially in these days and times to have a policy set forth ahead of time as to how these issues would be dealt with should they occur.  If an event happened I would first of all try to remain calm in my announcement.  That doesn’t mean that I would be emotionless.  I believe that there are times you weep with those who weep.  A leader isn’t called to be a stone.  I have done people’s eulogies with tears running down my face – people I deeply loved in the church.  I didn’t “lose it” and become incapacitated to lead or anything, but I showed appropriate emotion at the time.  I believe the announcement of a tragedy would call for appropriate emotion, after having assured everyone’s safety.  At that point the goal would be to select words to share that would build hope in others that somehow what the enemy intended for evil would be turned around for good by God.  Incidentally, we have had to do this for our church in years past as there was a tragedy associated with it, although I would rather not share all the details here and re-hash them.  We have had to actually live this out and after two years of a grief period the church went through we did see the hand of God and how He turned around an evil situation for good.

7.    How would you inform followers of the cost, risk and benefits of a risky venture and get followers to make a conscious decision (educated decision) about whether the effort is worthwhile?

First I would calculate for myself if it was truly worthwhile.  I would not try to convince someone else to give or invest of themselves in something I am not fully committed to in my heart.  I can’t speak with any sense of passion about something I’m not really personally invested in.  After making the decision for myself I would simply speak from my own experience of what I have decided to invest in whatever venture is on the table.  I would do that through a series of creative communications in whatever areas God led me to use – social media, banquets, personal one on one meetings, messages in services, letters, etc.

8.    How do you determine what types of changes are necessary and morally right for the Church?

The reading of God’s Word, and Prayer.  Again that is not a cliché, or a cop out -- it’s how I live my life.

9.    How do you adjust your approach to various groups when dealing with issues or discipline?

I do not believe people are all the same nor should they be treated the same.    While Jesus was “no respecter of persons” I don’t believe that means we treat everyone the same across the board.  Jesus appeared to have a variety of levels of compassion for different people, in fact look at how the scripture indicates that he specifically recognized children and even said that we must become “like them” to enter into the Kingdom of heaven!   I would not necessarily discipline a child who has physical or learning disabilities the same as a fully functioning child, if they did not have the ability to understand the directions in the same way.   There are those who do not have the same mental or physical capacities and must be given greater grace.  I believe the Lord shows us with different people what approach to use if we seek Him.  This is not just for children, but for all people.  While the Word of God does not change, our methods of applying it sometimes do, if we are wise.  

As a for instance I am currently dealing with a situation like this and just this past week my husband and I were discussing a possible resolution to the situation.  There is a person, an adult, who consistently interrupts me at the altar.  It is quite honestly very irritating even when they mean well .  If they had their full mental capacity I would deal with them quite differently.  But they don’t understand, no matter how many times or different ways I gently tell them.  Because they are severely learning disabled.  I have others who can help or gently re-direct but because of this person’s weakness, I do not become harsh with them.  However if someone who does not have those same disabilities kept interrupting me time after time I would be much firmer in the way I dealt with it.

10. What are you glad that you did in your past and were defining moments for you as a leader?

I have always had friends in leadership and I’m glad I made that decision.  I know people say that most pastors don’t have friends and that leadership is a lonely place.  I believe those people choose that.  I’m not willing to live my life without friends.  Even with being advised 25 years ago in Bible College NOT to do this, and going to many district seminars and workshops over these many years where we were also advised NOT to do this, I always decided not to take this advice.  

I looked to scripture instead and saw that Jesus had the one that was closest to Him (John) then the three (Peter, James, John) and then the 12 (disciples).  Jesus did have people he was close to, and yes, in leadership.  Jesus also got hurt and betrayed by them (Judas) and yet He did it anyway.  I chose to do it too knowing that I would probably get hurt a few times.  I have.  I’ve been brutally betrayed!  So bad once that I went to Christian counseling to pick up the pieces.  And I waited a while to open my heart to another friend.  But I did.  I discovered that the same walls that keep you from being hurt also keep you from being loved.  I am not willing to live a loveless or friendless life.  If there’s anything we need in the ministry, it’s a friend or two.  And friendship gets messy sometimes.  And that’s okay.  It was messy for Jesus too.

One of my greatest defining moments was when I was angry at myself for having trusted a leader who betrayed me in our previous church.  Although I kept going through the motions of “my job” at the church, I pulled away from people and one on one ministry as much as possible for about six months to a year and vowed to never get close again.  One day I was crying out to God and I said, “I know, I know, I’m such a dunce!!  How could I have let them into my heart like that, up close and make myself vulnerable for them to hurt me?”  And very clearly the Lord spoke to me and said, “Do you think I’m a dunce?”  And I said, “Of course not!   You’re the Lord!”   And he said, “Well, I let Judas into my circle – on purpose, in advance, even knowing what He would do.  It’s never for nothing when you love with no return.”  That moment totally rocked my world.  I realized I was not dumb to let this leader into my life on a deeper level.  They blew it.  It was unwise on their part.  People are people and sometimes things like this happen.  But it was God’s will for me to open my heart again after prayerful consideration.  I have gone on to have much closer friends and have never been sorry for it.    If it’s good enough for Jesus…

11. What mistakes did you make that you would advise other leaders not to make?

How much time do we have here?  It would take all day for me to tell you…

First, I’d take more time off.  I am really good at doing this now and have been for several years.  But prior to that I wasn’t so good at it.  Particularly in our former church, I set the people up for a level of reliance on me that just wasn’t healthy.  I took so little time off and they were perfectly happy to let me.  If I had it to do over again I would not be personally unhealthy at the expense of the church, not for a moment.

Second, I wish I would have prayed more about things earlier in our ministry.   

Third, I would have realized that sometimes you win the smaller battles but lose the war.  I fought on a lot of things that were just stupid.  

Fourth, I would have NEVER tried to talk someone into staying in the church when they want to leave.  

Fifth, I’d put more emphasis on health instead of growth with the understanding that with health comes growth.

Like I said, I could go on and on with my mistakes…these are just a few.

12. What advice can you give a young person like me who is entering leadership?

First, spend time in the Word and prayer not just as a discipline, but a love relationship with the Father.  He’s not mad when you don’t show up – He’s sad.  Because He longs to be with you.  Having an intimate relationship with God, you can make it through anything that comes your way in leadership or otherwise.  They say the one thing constant in life is change.  The way to navigate change is to hold to God’s unchanging hand.  That’s more than the lyrics of an old song – it’s reality.  You’re either coming out of a change or preparing for one and the thing that holds you steady through a change is a rock solid relationship with Jesus.    

Second, prioritize personal health.  I regret sacrificing my personal health for the church for so many years.  One man died for the church.  We don’t have to.  We’ve only been given one body in this life, to carry us through all the days of our lives to finish the work God called us to do.  If we’re incapacitated or dead we can’t finish it.  We can finish it while in pain but it’s just more exhausting and who needs that?  Take care of yourself.  I read an article by Bill Hybels who said he learned from Dee Hock (a leadership expert) that we need to spend 50% of our time leading ourselves before we lead anyone else.  Upon hearing that years ago I made some major changes.  I am committed to taking care of myself and not breaking self-promises.  For years I made sure I never broke a promise to anyone else but I’d break ones I made to myself daily.  I’d have a plan to ride my bike and exercise and then someone would call and ask me to minister to a need and I’d put my bike ride aside saying, “oh, it’s only me…I can do that another time.”  A lot of our health boils down to self respect.  We teach people how to treat us.  I don’t feel bad anymore when I gently decline a request or expectation of someone else to give due diligence to what God has asked me to do in caring for myself first.  This ultimately makes me stronger so that I can pour out to others.

Third, prioritize time with your family.  Just today I was talking with one of my job seekers.  (I’m a certified job coach.)  She made a decision to leave the corporate world and was afraid to tell me (her job coach) that she was no longer going to look for a job outside the home.  She had prayerfully come to a decision to leave the business world to stay home with her children.  Fear melted to relief when I told her that I was thrilled for her decision.  I shared with her that I’ve accomplished a few things in my life but none greater than my marriage or three children.   If your family is serving God wholeheartedly, the rest in life is gravy.  

Fourth, remember – when everything is going wrong it’s not your fault.  And, conversely, when everything is going right it’s not your fault either.  

Fifth and finally - there are so many things I could share but I will close with this.  After all Jesus has done for us, there is no situation too difficult, no conversation too hard, nothing that we might have to do in leadership that is not worth it when it comes to following Him and His will for every situation.   The thing leaders tend to fear most is conflict.  I understand.  Like many leaders, we’ve been homeless, jobless and broke before because of conflict.  Conflict we didn’t ask for or want!  I always dread conflict.  I don’t think normal people ever look forward to it with anticipation.  Often we fear conflict because we fear change and what might happen as a result of addressing things.  I have learned that there is no ramification too great for me to NOT be a person of integrity and follow what God has asked me to do in any given situation.   As a leader popularity or security can never be our idol if we are to live integral lives.  Nothing is too difficult to address when we remember all the Lord has done for us.  Let us boldly lead in whatever way He is asking us to.   The Lord is our Shepherd and He will take care of us whether on the mountain or in the valley. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

This will make a tadpole slap a whale!!!

This is so yummo! It's the latest thing makin' my mouth happy and my waistline slimmer!  (All of the ingredients aren't low calorie but using what ones you can certainly helps out.)

Our staff came over for Easter dinner and everybody brought something to share to go along with the ham we made at our house.  Our children's pastors brought the following dish and I could have had it as my whole meal.  I said, "please, please, please, I beg you to bring that to every gathering we have that includes food..."

We are all watching our weight and this is a dish that has low calorie/fat ingredients but I promise it does not skimp on flavor.  Try it, you'll love it!  By the way, they did not bake it as indicated in this recipe, they brought it to the church in a crock pot and cooked it there and then just brought it to our home after church.

Crowd Pleasing Vegetable Casserole


1 can (26 ounces) Campbells Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup Fat Free (they used Cream of Celery because my husband is highly allergic to mushrooms -- the taste was still amazing.)
1 and 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
2/3 cup low fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bags (16 oz each) frozen vegetable combination (broccoli, cauliflower & carrots) cooked and drained
2 cans (2.8 oz each) French's French Fried Onions (2 and 2/3 cups)

Stir the soup, 1 cup of cheese, sour cream, black pepper, vegetables and 1 can onions in a 3 quart shallow baking dish.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the vegetable mixture is hot and bubbling.  Stir the vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle with the cheese and the remaining onions.  Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our God is risen and reigning and we're elevating the glory of our God and King...

People streaming in the doors for service today...a packed house!

What an amazing day at Celebration!

I waited until  later in the day to blog today because I wanted to share about how our service was this morning.

My day started super early on Sunday as it always does - way before the sun comes up.  Today I didn't get officially "dressed for service" til right up to service time because like most of our other team members, I wanted my clothes to be perfectly pressed and fresh for the day ahead.  We went to rehearsal early this morning (I go at 7:30 am) as we always do and we had a complete run through.  It went smooth as butter.  I was so excited for what was going to unfold.  After rehearsal everyone went to change clothes for service and then it was time for the continental breakfast that our church provided for all attenders this morning.  The service kicked off an hour later...

Over the past 10 months so much new talent has poured into our church. We actually have three public middle school and high school choral directors in the church now, and much more in addition to that!  In each church we have pastored where I have directed the worship ministries or choir I've always "had" to do solos out of necessity...especially if there was a more difficult female solo requiring more of a range or someone who can just really belt it.  Well, this is the FIRST time I've NEVER done one thing in a musical but DIRECT.  So fun.  Some of our team members were soloing for the first time and each of them honestly knocked it out of the ballpark.  We didn't have one weak link.  I was so proud of each and every one of them.  Song after song it was like power hitter after power hitter was coming up to bat.  I am telling you without exaggeration that I believe some of our team members could be on American Idol if they were within the age range. They are really THAT good.  God is just so amazing to send us these gifts to His church.

In addition to a powerful musical there was an equally powerful worship set that just set the tone for the day and the band was sharp as usual.  Everyone just brought their A game today and it was amazing.  I know, I know, I say "amazing" a lot.  Sometimes there's just no other word that fits but amazing!!!  Speaking of amazing today Larry brought an amazing ending to the musical with a short message and altar call that included media that was just perfecto!  Everything just oozed with the power of the Holy Ghost.  I know he's my husband and all, but I'm just sayin', that Larry has been at a whole 'nother level lately in bringing it, and each week he's just getting more...well, amazing...there's no other word for it.  The man is ON FIRE and people are coming to watch him burn!!!

I have posted about 100 photos (so far) on facebook of ones that were taken in today's service.  Several other photographers took more and I'm sure there are many yet to be posted.  The place was also packed, for the glory of God!  We're continuing to go to new levels each week.

I've saved the best for last -- God's Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way with people responding for salvation and other needs to be met in their lives.  That NEVER gets old and it's what motivates me to get up and put out 100% every Sunday and Wednesday, and really every day of the week for that matter.

Thank you so much, Team Celebration, for pouring yourselves out today, giving it all you had.  You are loved and appreciated beyond measure.

Following the service we gathered with the staff and families at our home for Easter lunch -- ham and all the trimmings. It was an awesome afternoon of fun, food and fellowship ~ table games, discussion and relaxing together.  Thank you Lord, for all of your blessings on me.  Thank you for Your Life that gives me life!

By the way, for anyone interested, Celebration has a brand new website that just launched this week, here.  We do have plenty of podcasts there as well as links to receive all of our weekly publications to your email box.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I wrote a blog

I wrote a lengthy blog several times last night and deleted it every time.  I didn't intend on doing that, in fact it was incredibly frustrating.

Philippians 2:14 says, "do everything without complaining."   I really believe complaining is the devil's food.  Complaining is to the devil as praise is to God.  That's not to say that I have never complained and still don't complain sometimes.  I struggle like anyone else.  But it's still wrong, and it's not pleasing to God. 

I blog everyday. 

It's also my desire to obey God's Word.

Sometimes I just need to pray through, and hit the delete key.  Like yesterday, and today.

Pray for me.  I'll pray for you.  Together we will overcome.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Brand new

 "They are brand new, not things from the past."  Isaiah 48:7

I found this butterfly outside the sanctuary doors yesterday afternoon as I was putting some last minute things in place for our choir musical.  I know, Thursday isn't "last minute" for most people when it comes to something on Sunday but I'm not a very "last minute" oriented person.  For me the last minute is long before the actual last minute.  (smile)

It seemed poignant to me that this butterfly was in my path as I entered the doors to put the finishing touches on for Easter.   Butterflies symbolize new life and certainly we've had our share of that at Celebration.  I feel like a whole new life has opened up for me these past ten months.  It's happened for me personally and for us as a church.  It's good, so good.   And it's been a looooooooooooooong time coming. 

God spoke to me that this isn't just our NEW season, it's our DUE season.  This is going to be the best Easter Sunday, ever!!! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Didn't we do this just a few days ago?

It's the baby's birthday today...

I'm so blessed to be her Momma.  
She's 14 today.  

Where has the time gone?
Don't blink'll miss it!  Time goes so quickly.

Last night she was sharing some of her insights with me of things she's been reading in the Word, and explaining to me why she loves certain passages.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 
3 John 1:4

Happy birthday Savanna!  You are the daughter we always dreamed of.  I love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I've been in the customer service **cough** people pleasing business way too long...

It's gotten in my head way too much and I think I just might need another vacation.  I'm starting to get loopy.  ("Just starting?" some of you are thinking...)

What do you get when you mix being a pastor, a pastor's wife, and a job coach working  for a re-employment  firm that is absolutely  second to none in customer service?  Well, I will tell you this, if you do it for any amount of time successfully you are, as a general rule, positive in your communication.  You may not "feel" it all the time, and some days may be a huge challenge, but you learn how to be a positive communicator. 

Monday I realized how programmed on "auto-pilot" I just might be when it comes to this. 

I had a few personal items on my agenda Monday when getting back from the cruise.  One was confirming a dentist appointment, the other making a call to my gynecologist's office to schedule my yearly exam.  I called and spoke with the receptionist giving her all of my information and she scheduled an appointment for me and then confirmed the date.  Then without even THINKING about it (I assure you I wasn't really thinking!) I said to her, "Oh wonderful! I'm looking forward to it.  See you then!  Have a most blessed day.  Goodbye."

I hung up the phone and was suddenly startled by realizing what I just said.  Did I just tell the receptionist at the GYN office that  I was looking forward to my exam?  Yes..  What in the world was I thinking?  I wasn't.  I was just on autopilot, like I am for a lot of my conversations.  The ministry, and the business world, require excellent manners even when others don't treat you the same.  I've been well trained to speak with well controlled, positive responses even when people (customers or church people) don't always treat me kindly.  I guess it seeped out in a weird way this week to say the least.  There are some meetings I don't have to tell people I'm looking forward to.  It's okay to not get excited over a pap smear.

Hopefully satan will not send me an invitation for lunch this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mexico Memories II

I was delighted by everything from these cool watermelon carvings on the buffets to the ice sculptures.   I love details!!
The Solarium (adults only pool) where I spent a lot of my time.  It was quiet in there. Loved it!   Nothing but adults silently paddling around in the water or just quietly sitting on the edge getting their feet wet.  This was one of the special places where I decompressed during the week. 
Larry and me on the deck at sunset.  My  hair was blowing up during this photo but I liked it anyway.  Usually sunset was in between the evening show and dinner and we always went out to the balcony to catch the sunset.  I love sunsets!
This was my favorite dessert of the week.  It was on "lobster night" and was a trio of some of the most scrumptious desserts.  The chocolate thing in the center was AMAZING!!!  So rich!  (Did I mention I gained two pounds on the cruise but have already taken them off since coming home?  Got right back on program...) 
Our servers sang for us on the last night.  It was so touching.  I have to admit it, I'm a sentimental sap and I cried while they were singing.
I know these are Mexico photos but I just have to say, I was so glad to see this face when I got home!!  They were soooooo excited to see us.  The kids took good care of them, and we are so grateful.  But we did miss our puppies terribly!!  Jordan took this photo of Max chillin with us on our bed after we got home from the cruise.   They've been a little extra clingy these past few days, making sure we're "really home" and not going anywhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Memories from Mexico

My man and me, on the balcony of our room.  I slept in quite a bit but Larry got up to watch the sunset each and every day.   
Costa Maya ~ an absolutely beautiful place.
Our room :)  I had breakfast in bed most mornings.  Luxurious! 
Larry standing in the other half of our room.
Larry and I sitting on the steps of the Mayan Ruins.  The cruise director gave a list of "top ten dumbest things people have asked me or said to me while on a cruise."  They were hysterical!  These were actual complaints people brought to his attention.  One lady complained and asked for her money back from the Royal Caribbean Ruins excursion.  She said, "I was very disappointed that the Ruins were in such poor condition."  Too funny!
Larry and me getting ready to go to dinner.
Sitting on the balcony of our room.
Our steward, Sebastian, cleaned our room and left us this elephant.  So cute.
The pool deck, where I spent a lot of time of my favorite parts of the cruise. I spent a lot of time here in the main pool and in the Solarium pool as well as on the deck, just reading.  I finished reading all of my magazines that have been stacking up (that I haven't had time to read) plus another book.
The view from our balcony as we were beautiful.
Costa Maya - one of the pools in port.  So much fun - they had a DJ and people were dancing in this pool and you could bring your drinks right in the pool with you.  So cool.
Costa Maya.  Never seen such clear blue water.