Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who wants a vacation?


Do you take all your time off?  I didn't used to and it was a huge mistake.

 A recent survey revealed that for most American employees, eleven vacation days a year are left unused, and almost a third of employees are "too afraid to ask for vacation" in a time of high unemployment and job insecurity, according to the Daily Mail.  The survey also revealed that not taking vacation days resulted in anger problems among staffers.

A lot of people ask me how I manage several jobs at once.  In fact, it seems to be a focus of what people ask me  about most. I will say that I do better with several jobs and all my vacation time than I did with one job and little to no vacation time.

The reasons I didn't take vacation in the past were noble.  I meant well and even spiritualized it.  But, it actually worked against me, not for me.  It's important to take all of your time off, particularly if you're a pastor -- I encourage you to  take every bit of time coming to you, because it only makes things better for you and for the church.  I used to be convinced that the more time I took off, the worse the church would be but actually I've come to see the opposite is true.

In her article, Stress Management:  Signs You Need a Vacation, Ntathu Allen, The Yoga For Stress Management Consultant shares the following:

  Five Signs You Need A Vacation
1. You regularly suffer from headaches, sore shoulders, back ache and neck pain.
2. You are unable to concentrate at work and find yourself working longer hours. You take work home and feel resentful at the impact this has on your relationships at home.
3. You are always tired, drained and lack energy. It takes you twice as long to get up and going. It feels like you have lost your mojo.
4. You are always snappy and ratty with your family and at work become moody and irritable with colleagues.
5. Your heart rate is higher than normal. You often hold your breath without realizing and your blood pressure is raised.
When I begin to see any or all of these signs, I know it's time.  My goal is to avoid having these five happen by regularly taking my day off (Friday).  Vacation time does need to be used up, but I notice even with vacation time utilized, I'll start having the above symptoms if I don't take my day off each week. 

With that said, the church is in capable hands and I'm very glad to be away this week.  Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The greatest blessing EV-er!!!

Our kids want to spend time with us!

What could be better?

This past week of Thanksgiving I heard a lot of people (including me) talking about how grateful they are to have a place to live, a church family, a job, etc. It's easy to lose sight of other blessings that sometimes go undetected when you are used to something -- like your kids talking to you or spending time with you.

I was talking about vacations with a friend whose children are also in their twenties. She shared that her kids would never willingly go on a trip with with her and her husband. She said, "I think that would be their nightmare...maybe mine too."

That got me to thinking how blessed Larry and I are.  Our kids seem to love being with us.  They couldn't wait to take this trip.

I am blessed among all women.  Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bon Voyage!

Today my family is headed for some special time together, just the five of us.   It's been a while since it's been "just us five"...where we're away from it all and no one can get ahold of us even if they tried.  We are so excited.

As a pastor appreciation gift last year, the church sent Larry and I on a cruise to Cozumel and Costa Maya.  It was the most A-May-Zing vacation we'd ever experienced, first and foremost because we were truly away from it all for a week -- no one could reach us by computer or phone.  We were really unplugged!  If you knew how much our phone rings, you'd know how significant that is!  Being truly unplugged had never happened before in 24 years of our marriage/ministry, and let me tell you, that cruise was a week from heaven!  I really believe it's the first vacation in the history of our marriage that I was ever able to really relax and rejuvenate. I didn't have to do a thing but just get myself showered, dressed and ready each day.  Literally everything else was done for me.  I have never in my adult life had that happen before.  It was true utopia for a week.

So our first cruise was really special for us to experience it -- just the two of us.  I'll always be glad it was that way. Although we enjoyed our time alone, we couldn't help but think about how much the kids would enjoy the trip.  With each new experience we'd comment, "Oh, Jordan would loooove that," or "this is right up Dustin's alley..." or "Savanna would go crazy over that."  We enjoyed our time alone as a couple but we thought of all the things we really wanted to experience with our children before our family starts changing or increasing.  Kids have a way of growing up, you know...

We came home from Mexico and my husband, in particular, was intent on making a family cruise happen.  He started researching and looking for deals, and saving.  He was a man on a mission!

We were unsure as to how it would work out -- after all, we're in a challenging economy.  Our family has been affected just like most other families.  We approached the kids, told them how much we wanted to take this trip together and asked them if they would be willing to do this as a family Christmas gift, in place of exchanging any other gifts.  All three of them immediately said, "Absolutely! Yes!!" They were so excited!  So we started planning and saving and putting together some creative strategies to make it happen.   And...we kept it quiet.  Why?  Well, there have been no shortage of friends or family who have said,"hey, we wanna go on a cruise with you guys!" and while it's absolutely wonderful to be loved, we wanted to have some time with just the five of us. The older my kids get, the more precious I realize this "just us 5" time is!  Larry and I are absolutely savoring all the time we have left until our family dynamic changes.

So this is our family Christmas present.  December 25 will be a lot simpler this year.  It truly will be all about Jesus' birthday, and going to church and sharing a meal together afterwards.  And,we will have some great memories to look back on from this week. We leave for Cozumel and the Cayman Islands this morning and we'll be back Saturday.  Sunday we'll be back with our Celebrators, rarin' and ready to go!

Max and Maddie had to stay home of course.  But they have a great live-in babysitter to take care of them.  "Uncle Mike" is staying with them.  (Thanks Mike, you're the best!)  I'll miss them dearly, but really need this time with the four most important people in my world, besides them.  :) 

I never take a break from blogging, so my blogs are set to publish this week each day while I'm gone.  Keep checking back to hear what was on my heart before I left.  I'll write longhand while I'm gone, in my journal...

Now, off to enjoy the four people I love more than anyone else in the world, in between sitting on a deck chair and reading for hours without worrying about anything.

It also happens to be my husband's birthday today and he's especially excited to spend it this way.

Happy birthday Teeby, and Merry Christmas Shrodes family, all in one day!  This might just be too much excitement to handle at once!  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are you involved or committed?


Someone once said that the difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and egg breakfast - the chicken was involved but the pig was committed.  

The sad reality is that most people settle for being involved without ever making a commitment. 

This morning I taught about this at Celebration and we had some fabulous discussion.  We talked about the differences between the business world and the church and how many if not most people give a greater level of commitment to the things of the world than the bride of Christ -- the church!  (The reason for this is money - which simply indicates the level of idolatry in the church today.)  
Let me ask you this...would you trust someone who was where they are supposed to be 80% of the time?  What about a person who did what they agreed to do 80% of the time?  I realize 80% is still the majority of the time, but I've chosen that number to prove a point.  Although it's the vast majority if they were faithful 80% of the time they would still be irresponsible 20% of the time.  If you knew somebody was definitely not dependable for 20% of the time, would it alter your level of trust?  Of course.
There are serious differences between being involved and being committed. Being involved means you can pretty much do what you want -- anytime you want.  You can just sort of  drop in or come and go as you please.  

The illustration I used this morning was that of a "call up choir".   I've been in churches (mostly in the south - not Florida south - we're not really the south, ha ha!) where they do this.  At a certain point in the service the pastor or music director says that the choir's getting ready to sing and  "calls up" anybody who wants to sing.  These folks come out of the congregation and go up on the stage to sing. Of course they just do familiar songs that everyone knows like Heaven's Jubilee or Amazing Grace.  There is no rehearsal --they just wing it and you might have 25 people in the choir or 75 depending on how many came to church that day and feel like participating.  Consider this versus a choir where it's mandatory to attend rehearsals to be a part and there are guidelines to be a member of the group.  There is a whole different level of excellence with this kind of group that isn't  possible with a call up choir.

Nobody will ever move forward with a call up choir attitude!

Commitment involves the fulfilling of promises but with it comes a greater blessing and favor.  Some wonder, "why has this happened for others and not for me?" 

A person can have great gifting but be unusable because of commitment issues. 

Luke 16:10 says  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Some people wonder why they have not been entrusted with any greater position, ministry, finances, etc.   Amazingly they just don't get the connection between this and their 100% dependability.

Someone in class today brought up, "what about grace...where does grace enter into the picture?"  Certainly there is grace and forgiveness just as God grants the same to us.  Trust is a different issue.  

In order for trust to be re-established a person would have to build a track record of trustworthiness all over again.

Commitment is the only way to grow.  Nobody moves forward only being half way in.  You've got to go all in to win.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mundane and Miraculous in Shrodesville

Lord have mercy...I'm just sitting down to blog at 8 pm, and still have several hours worth of work to do!  Truth be told I'm looking for a good excuse to sit down for a few minutes and sip on some iced tea.  Can you tell I'm addicted to iced tea?  Unsweetened with a slice of lime.  Doesn't get any better than that!  Unless maybe you're having a piece of pie with it...

We've been working all day, like dogs.  Well no, not really like dogs.  Whoever made up that stupid phrase, "working like a dog" anyway?   My dogs do nothing except sit in front of the sliding glass window and get sun, or lay on the couch.  

I'm grateful to have a roof over my head and a nice place to live.  No complaints there.  But sometimes when I hear people talk about the dream of home ownership I wanna say, "Are you on crack?"  It takes so much work to keep up a home.  Many days I feel like I'm failing at it! Many people ask me, "How do you do it all?  Well, sometimes I don't.  Especially with me working several jobs and keeping a home, things pile up and then they start screaming at me.  Did you know dust talks?  Mine does!   At least once a month I say to Larry, "wouldn't it be nice to sell our house and move to an apartment or condo where we don't have any outside upkeep?"  And then he gives me a sermon about how blessed we are.  And I tell him we are blessed but I'm tired.  We have this same conversation at least once a month.  ::smile::

Savanna did all the weeding on Friday, which was amaaaaaazzzzing.  I am usually the one to do it.  At our house it's an overwhelming job.  Seven beds to do.  Some summers I have spent 2-3 hours a night for several weeks straight out there getting it all done.  I sprayed it with RoundUp so well last time a few months ago that there are fewer weeds now so it only took her one night.  I went through and sprayed again today, to try to keep the weeds under control.  In our neighborhood they don't take kindly to weeds.  The HOA sends you letters about it threatening to fine you.  Yes. I. Am. Serious.  We get letters sometimes if it's been too long since I've pulled weeds, or asking us bleach our mailbox down again, which everyone in our neighborhood is supposed to do on a regular basis to keep our boxes lily white.  Yes, seriously.   As if it weren't enough to keep my teeth flossed and white, I have to worry about my mailbox. 

Larry trimmed the queen palms, Savanna trimmed the back yard bushes, got everything tidy again out there.  Then I strung clear/white lights on all the bushes in the back yard...drained and cleaned the jacuzzi and Larry filled it back up again.  This was just all we did outside today.  ::breathe::

Back inside I made three Christmas centerpieces, cleaned a chandelier, replaced candles, did two loads of dishes, and the list goes on.

It's only 8 PM and I'm planning on 2-3 hours more tonight working on other things around the house.  There's so much to do and it calls to me all the time.  Especially now that we're gearing up to have so many people at our house during the holidays.

We're just going hard at it today, pressing through and getting things done.  Before I go to bed hopefully the jacuzzi will be heated enough to sit out there for a while and look at our fabulous lights on the bushes.

I once heard a speaker say, "God is more in the mundane than the miraculous."

If that's true, God was all over the place at my house today.  :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Traditions are a splendid thing

Traditions!  Love 'em!

We have several the day after Thanksgiving.  More recently Savanna and I have been getting up at 5:00 AM and going out shopping for black Friday.  First we shopped, then went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then shopped again and got home at about 10:00 am.  Vanna and I are serious bargain hunters and we got 70% off on most of our merchandise.  Believe it or not we spent the most time at Salvation Army.  That's our favorite store.  Seriously!  And yes, they had black friday sales!

Things took off like a rocket when we got home because the main thing we do on this day is the Christmas decorating of our home.  We decorated the  church with a team of amazing folks from Celebration this past Monday - Wednesday and now it was time to focus on our home.  Our house is the gathering spot for a lot of things during this season for the church.  I have a women's gathering here, we have our leadership and their families here (about 70-80 people), and in a few weeks we'll also have our newcomer's over.  Each year I've also had a huge New Year's Eve party, probably about 100 people, and we have our decor up for that too.

We have a lot of Christmas trees.  Last year there were 8.  We're not quite there yet this year -- we had  one tree break last year and I had to throw it away and I'll be looking for a bargain at the end of the season to add to our collection.  I still don't have the tree in our bedroom up yet.  By the way there's a reason I have all these trees.  Go here to read about it.  Get some tissues first.   This is one of my blog posts that has gotten the most feedback, the most e-mail and tears, and well...it's just real special.

Here's what my house looks like so far:

The entry way to the house.  In hindsight I should have turned some lights on before I took the photo so you could see the wreaths on my doors, but oh well!  Those are poinsettias by the door to the left.   Tomorrow Larry and Jordan will hang the icicle lights around the frame of the house.  Love that!
Tree as you walk in our front door.  This is our family history tree.  I didn't buy anything on it but the lights.  Everything was either a gift from special people in the church or our family down through the years or our kids made the ornaments.  There are lots of milestones ("Our first Christmas", "Baby's first Christmas") and stuff like that.  When Larry and I got married I knew I wanted to do a tree like this and the first few years it was bare and we just kept adding to it year after year.  Today Savanna said, "Mom, we need a bigger tree!  We've got a lot of family history!"
As you come into the family room you can see a smaller tree that has blue lights and silver decorations.  It's mainly decorated with the Martha Stewart "snowflake" collection.  I think it's peaceful.  You can see Max and Maddie there, getting in the Christmas spirit.
Just another photo of the same...
This tree is in our kitchen ~ it's my sugared fruit tree.  It reminds me of the importance of the fruit of the spirit.  Sometimes I use red lights - this year we used clear.  It's got a lot of sugared fruit and leaves and stuff like that.  Excuse the pile of laundry on the table.  Just keepin' it real!

 I am just getting around to blogging tonight because I've been so busy today.  Now it's time for me to make a tall glass of iced tea and go get in my tub and soak.  I need all the sleep I can get -- tomorrow it's my day to clean my house from top to bottom.  For all of you who think Deanna does nothing but sit around and write all day...are you on crack??? :)

Have a most blessed evening, my friends...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Portraits of thanks


I'm thankful for my amazing family.

 I'm thankful for my home.   

I'm thankful for our amazing church!  This is a photo from our Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday night.  The best ever!
I'm thankful for this sweet BFF who never leaves my side.  This is Maxie last night sitting next to me while I updated facebook.  He sits right next to me just like this whenever I work on the computer.  A constant, faithful, sweet friend.   When he wants me to stop typing and give him a little more attention he touches me with his paw and I love on him a little before going back to work.

Thankful for this sweet girl -- our miracle!  Maddie lights our world with love.  Her scar is a reminder to us of where she was and how far she's come, and that God does answer prayer.
 I'm thankful for the street we live on, for the nice sidewalks I walk on every day.

I'm thankful for the sights I see on my walks everyday in our neighborhood.

 I'm thankful that I live near the beach.

 I'm thankful for the beautiful sunrises and sunsets I saw while on my bike this past year.  I'm thankful for friends that rode bikes with me and shared these moments.
I'm thankful for the blessing of leading worship with my family, all the time.  By God's grace I've raised children who will do much greater things than me.
I'm thankful for naps.  Especially the way I take 'em, with the best snuggler ever.


I'm thankful for beautiful mornings in the well fields near my home.  Thankful for friends who shared time with me in the fields.

I'm thankful for a church that prays - with young people who worship and pray and cry out to God with all their might.  This photo was taken between midnight and 1 am, by the way.  Yeah, these folks are hard core for God and that's my baby girl there in the green shirt in front.  :)

I'm grateful for these faces that are most happy to see me walk in the door each day.  

I'm grateful for our table that has welcomed so many friends this past year and holds so many memories of lunches, dinners and late night conversations.

I'm thankful for a man of God who preaches God's word uncompromised!

 Thankful that I'm not the only worship leader in the family anymore.

Thankful to have raised a young man who is passionate about life, the Lord, and music.

Thankful for a daughter who is beautiful inside and out ~ loves the Lord, His church, and is gonna change the world!


 I'm thankful for so many friends and family near and far.  I never selected a photo because it's impossible without leaving someone out.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  You all know who you are.  Thank you for coloring my world so beautifully. You are all loved.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Get off the Christian crack...

Something really good is getting ready to happen for me.  I feel it!

I've worked for this for a long time.  And I'll keep working whether it happens today or many days from now. Whether two weeks or two years or twenty years. I will work in the good times and bad, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health...yeah, you are starting to get the picture -- I'm married to this thing.  Or at least it feels like it a lot of the time.  :)

I'm faithful to it whether anyone's watching, whether anyone else cares. 

I've learned that what you desire most isn't going to happen without a ridiculous amount of faithfulness to a level much further than most people are comfortable with or can even fathom.

I've noticed a lot of Christians think their dreams are going to be realized even if they lack integrity or faithfulness as long as they have passion and pray hard enough.

I'm a intercessor too, but I'm not on crack.  Really, it's like being on Christian crack to think you're going to have all of heaven open up over your life because you want it so bad or even pray about it so much, but neglect the call to be faithful with what's in your hand TODAY.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do you use this lame excuse?

A rightly focused life consists of fulfilling the expectations that we have formed ourselves based upon what God has spoken to us.

I often hear people speak of doing only what they can actually do and not worrying about what others expect them to do.  I agree.  But what happens once you've already agreed to something?  Does character and integrity not demand that you fulfill it?

We are not responsible for others expectations that we have  never invited, initiated nor agreed to. 

We are, however, responsible to fulfill an expectation when we initiate or consent to it.

For instance, part of getting married is making a covenant to fidelity.  What would it be like if your spouse later said, "I didn't meet your expectations in being faithful to you but I can only do what I can do..."

Let's say you apply for a job and before accepting the position they say, "this job is 40 hours a week."  So you come in the first week and work for 35 hours.  The following week you work 15, and the next week you work 30.  If they haven't fired you already, you speak up and say, "I know I haven't been working 40 hours.  I've come for whatever time I can, but you'll just have to understand that I can't fulfill all your expectations." That would be inappropriate and grounds for someone to fire you.

Most people would agree that this sounds kind of crazy, however people behave this way all time time.

Consider many of the people I coach.  They willingly come into the coaching relationship. If they are in my life coaching group they sign a contract before we start.  If they are someone I career coach through my job they sign what's called an engagement agreement with the company. Then when I start with them, in our first session we develop a set of expectations based upon what the client is interested in accomplishing.  

All of this is an agreement on their part to participate.

Many times they slack off to varying degrees.  Some don't show up for their session.  Some drop out altogether, others complete only a portion of the work.  Some communicate,  others say nothing at all.  Many times they just blithely say they are sorry they couldn't meet expectations.

I will never cease to be puzzled.

When others place expectations on us that we never invited nor agreed to, it is unwelcome and inappropriate.

When we initiate expectations and readily agree to them and then don't fulfill what we agreed to, it's not a case of personal boundary setting/ keeping nor using wisdom, it's a lack of integrity.

As far as Christians go, it gets old hearing people labeling a lack of integrity as "being led of the Lord in what to accomplish."  Once you've agreed to something it's no longer a matter of being spirit led.

That might sound good and grant you time for some extra naps.  But it's just spiritual gobbledygook.  At the point of your agreement to do something the issue of expectations transcends to a place that simply reveals whether you're either a person of your word or you're not. 

Character is very much a part of this issue although people would like to think it's just about hearing from God or boundaries. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

How these people act says a lot about YOU!

Jacinda* was a woman we pastored years ago who decided to start a home group, without our blessing.  It was only without our blessing because of her character.  There were several other church sponsored home groups going that were quite successful, led by Godly leaders.  I won't go into all of Jacinda's issues - it would take an entire blog series so we'll just leave it that she had serious issues.

Jacinda claimed to be an intercessor.  She would talk about how close she was to the Lord, and said that God had called her to mentor the women of the church.

So if this was the case, why did the women she took under her wing seem to get worse?
  • After beginning to attend her group they would come to church less, not more.
  • When they did come to church their attitudes were not the same!
  • The more they went to her home, the more they pulled away from the pastors - becoming distant, and awkward in conversation when they would see them.
  • The longer they hung out with Jacinda, there was less and less of the fruit of the spirit in their lives.
  • They started to move away from the basics of our faith, almost thinking them to be irrelevant, while they focused on extra-biblical (flaky) things.
  • Rather than getting behind the pastor's vision for the church, they seemed to gravitate to whatever Jacinda had in mind

If you are a believer and you lead a group that you say is designed to grow others in Christ or help them in some way, keep in mind it should only:
  • Increase Godly attitudes 
  • Produce more fruit of the spirit 
  • Increase wisdom in people, not flakiness
  • Result in the people you lead coming to church more, not less
  • Encourage them in having greater respect for their pastors, not less
If these things aren't happening, examine closely what you are doing, for you may not be led of God at all and could be leading people to destruction and not Godly destiny.

We're quite a number of years removed from that pastorate now but as I look back on the fruit of Jacinda's efforts, it's sad.  Most of the women she invested in aren't serving God now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We give thanks


I'm grateful for what goes on at Celebration each and every week.

So thankful that lives are being changed around the altars, and around the clock, really!

Filled with gratitude to be a part of it.

Yesterday the staff of our Recovery Service (also called "Hopetown") served a Thanksgiving dinner to 104 people and gave 28 families "Boxes of Hope" -- everything to make Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday.  We are so grateful to all of the people within our congregation who make this happen each and every week.  It's not just at Thanksgiving but all the time that they do this.

Today is our Thanksgiving Dinner for the Celebration Church family.  One of my favorite days of the year -- not just because it's an amazing dinner, but because we have praise and worship and testimonies.  The time of sharing is always really special.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nothin' like a little (or a lotta!) holy matrimony!

I love weddings!

Today we're blessed to attend the wedding of Kaleb Conley and Haley Jo Honeycutt.  Kaleb is the son of our dear long-time friends, Pastors Keith and Joy Conley, lead pastors of Harvest Assembly of God in Lakeland, Florida.

We are thrilled for this beautiful couple and pray many wonderful years for them as they love and serve God and each other. 

Take some time today to pray for the marriages of those you are in relationship with in your family, group of friends, and church.  Marriage wasn't started in the world or by our legal system -- it was ordained by God and starts in His holy Word.  Something started by God is under assault like never before, today.  There are those who seek to re-define something that has already been clearly defined by God all throughout His Word..

Join me in a prayer today for Kaleb and Haley, for all marriage and for the protection of the institution of marriage across our land.

Friday, November 18, 2011

We have a winner!

The winner of this week's book giveaway is Leanne Weber of Duluth, Minnesota!!

Congratulations, Leanne!   The book, Autumn Song by Martha Rogers will be in your mailbox shortly.  It will be coming straight from Charisma House, so be on the lookout for it.  Thanks to all who commented on the blog this past week and entered the contest and thanks to Charisma for providing the book.

In case you are wondering how the winner is determined, I type all the names into this site and it randomly selects the winner.

We will be having more contests in the future, so stay tuned and keep reading -- you never know what we're going to give away next.

Have a great Friday, everyone!