Category Archives: Titus 2 for U – weekly feature

A Call to the Women of my Generation

Standard

Have you looked around at women 10 and 20 years younger than us lately? They are a fashionable, energetic, funny and passionate bunch. But have you noticed they are struggling? Struggling to fit in, to stay beautiful, to get married, to stay married, to balance jobs and family, to be mom’s, to come to terms with their past, to build friendships, to know Christ. Have you found yourself wondering why they are doing some of the obviously ineffective things they are doing? Have you noticed how easy it is to forget how incredibley hard it is to make it through the 20’s and 30’s?

Sisters, it is time for us to open our hearts and homes and lives to the women coming behind us. They are eager for mentoring. They are hungry for modeling. They long to see Christ in you. They need to be encouraged.

I recently had a just-out-of-college young woman mention I should lead a summer bible study. I casually thought, Sure, that’ll be easy.  Maybe five or so younger women and I could study a book of the bible this summer. I put a little post about it on my church member page thinking it would be a pretty small response. There were 17 women who decided to attend. Seventeen! Clearly I had missed how great a desire there is in my own community of women for intentional investment.

I know the idea of mentoring younger women can be daunting. After all, we are still trying  to figure life out and many of us didn’t have mentors in our lives during those  years either. Where were our trail blazers? They were exactly where we are now. Enjoying the life they spent 20 years building, wrangling teenagers and trying to slow down a little. So we come to a cross roads of sorts: do we take the harder path of investing what God has taught us into our younger sisters in the faith, or do we sit back and begin to relax a little, fearful of the energy and sacrifice it will take?

What if you could throw out the ideas you have about what mentoring means? What if instead of a formal, scheduled event it was an organic relationship where you just opened your life up?

as you teach your secret pot roast recipe and she learns to feed her family

as you shop at Target and she learns not to be so critical of her body by the way you embrace your aging figure

as you hang out around your house and she learns to speak with kindness, but also with firmness to interrupting children

as you spend time together and she sees how to live out the beautiful gospel of Jesus in all the little ways it changes everything  from running a home to working to reaching out to needy in your community

The women the bible describes in the book of Acts had these “as you go” relationships. They were cooking and cleaning and worshipping and living but they were doing it together. I still long for women who have come before me to mentor me too! But I am no longer content to deflect the responsibility of Titus 2:4 while younger women flounder. The beauty of the body of Christ is family. Big sisters, little sisters working out life together in safe relationships to ask questions, share fears and receive love.

Advertisements

Titus Two 4 U – How to hold a profitable garage sale

Standard
With all the emphasis on being a frugal wife/mom these days, I thought some of you who have never tried having a garage sale (or tried and found it to be not worth it) might like some guidelines on making sure all the effort it pays off. At this point I consider myself a pro- you can decide for yourself but here is my resume: in the past 10 years I have held 10 sales for a total revenue of over $15,000. Now, most of that money has gone toward missions my family has been part of. We have partially financed gospel mission work in Brazil, Nicaragua, India, Romania, Ethipoia and Panama. Also, who can forget last year’s “Get Debi a New Washing Machine” sale which was so successful we also, “Fixed the Riding Lawn Mower” (amen, and thank you Lord! the grass was getting high) So, based on all this I am a self proclaimed expert and I’d love to pass on my experience to you!

Debi’s Top Tips for Holding a Successful Sale

1. Advertise a lot! I run free ads on Craigslist, Garagesales.com and Yardsalefrog.com. All these sites will allow you to post an ad for free. I also make poster board signs for the area around my neighborhood for the “drive by” traffic. Use all one color poster board- preferably flouresecent so people can easily spot them.
2. Borrow tables and make sure you sort, fold and display your items nicely. People will not bend over to hunt through piles of clothing on the ground or in a box. If you need to put like items in a box, such as books or DVD’s , try to set the box a little higher off the ground by putting another box/tub underneath it.
3. Bulk price almost everything! When you have several hundred clothing items, your best bet is to have a .50 cent table and a $1 table. I have standard prices for common items: all shoes $3 per pair, hardback books $1, softback books .50 cents, all purses $3 (sometimes if I have a really nice purse I’ll hang it and price individually) stuffed animals $1/.50 cents (I separate into two boxes depending on quality) DVD’s $3 each, CD’s $1, jeans (no rips/stains) $2 each. Clothing is subjective, so if I think it’s a really nice item (brand name, brand new or coats) I hang them and price individually. Otherwise it’s folded and sold cheap. 
4. Always have a “man table” because the women will shop longer if the men have something to look at. Tools, fishing gear, knives, gadgets, sporting memmorabilia, baseball caps and random things from your garage will work great. 
5. Let people haggle you a little. Even though you are already giving them a great deal it is generally considered garage sale “norm” if someone wants to buy a whole box of something, you will give them a couple bucks off. I always add up what the price should be then subtract a few. If someone wants to buy a whole box of books though, just let them pay what they want, because books are heavy and you’ll never sell them all. You’ll be glad to have them gone at the end of your sale- believe me.
6. Restraighten your tables as the day goes on. Display does matter, even at garage sales. 
7. Make signs to let people know of the bulk prices, otherwise put stickers stating the price on everything else. 
8. Fold sheet sets and masking tape together. Write on the tape what size the set is-  “queen sheet set, no stains, nice and soft! $5” Same with towels, curtain panels and pajama sets for women and kids.
9. Have plenty of bags on hand for people’s purchases. I try to stockpile a few bigger handled bags for heavier items. 
10. Keep an extension cord plugged in and easily accessible for people to make sure electronics work. 
11. Don’t price lower than multiples of .25 cents. In other words, nothing sells for less than a quarter. It makes chek out so much easier! If something isn’t worth .25 cents sell them “two for a quarter” as in “Socks, 2 pairs for .25 cents” If it’s only worth a nickle, just make it free. It’s worth the less hasssle when checking 6 people out at once.
12. Don’t sell Bibles. Just give them away. Trust me on this.
13. Keep a sense of humor, a sharpie , a roll of masking tape and a cup of coffee with you. Good luck and let me know how your sale went! 
Don’t be discouraged by the madness- plan for about 10 hours to get it all sorted and ready.
We actually had a piano donated for this sale!

Titus Two 4 U – Learning to Follow

Standard
I did not grow up in an era where couples dancing involved memorizing steps and patterns. Our dances did not have names. I always thought the formal dances such as the waltz, or foxtrot, seemed more romantic than the slow-dancing we did in my high school gym, basically consisting of hugging while swaying and occasionally shuffling feet. And do not get me started on dirty dancing, which, while being a romantic and entertaining movie (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”) was really just “messing around” set to music. No, there was a generation before me that made dancing look fun, and beautiful and seamless.

I think one inclination we lost in both dancing and life was the willingness for a woman to follow a man’s lead. About two months ago I was getting really excited about a wonderful ministry in my city. It is a prison ministry for women, with the goal of helping them to transition into life outside jail in a healthy and godly way. It’s basically about helping them encounter God through lots of his people reaching out and teaching and serving. Love, love, love it! And, as all good extroverted, excitable types like me do, I called the founder of the ministry to chat about how I could help connect others to them, and how I could be involved myself. The wonderful woman who began the ministry graciously took an hour and poured her heart out about her passion for what God has called her to do. It was inspirational, in a real non-cheesy way. So I left thinking about what role I was going to take, called my husband to tell him of my excitement when he promptly burst my bubble. 
“Um I don’t think this is a good time for you to get involved so heavily. You have a lot on your plate and you are tired all the time. I usually support your ideas, but I just don’t feel good about this.” 
Total joy kill . And I was hurt and annoyed and starting down the path of self-righteousness, when God reminded me I was to follow this man’s lead. It was kind of a quiet reminder- a thought that perhaps my repsonse wa not reflecting a wife with a submissive or willing spirit. More joy kill. Not only do I NOT get to be all excited about my fun new ministry opportunity, I don’t even get to be mad at my husband for pouring water all over it. (I may or may not have mentioned something along those lines via text before sensing the nudge of God to simmer down and listen to my husband. Sigh- I’m working on not firing off snarky texts anymore.)
So, I will admit this was begrudging, but I decided to email the founder and let her know I’d need to wait for a time to get involved. Fast forward two months. Low and behold my entire body begins to lose a grip on health. I’m noticing fatigue getting higher, starting to run a pretty consistent fever and feeling generally bad. At the same time, Little Miss Fluff and Sparkle brings home two C’s on progress report and it becomes clear she needs more attention and structure in homework time. Suddenly, the thought of another weekly committment to a brand new role doesn’t look like such a good idea. In fact, it sounds totally overwhelming. I am heading to doctor appointments, work and bed until I can recover. I am cancelling fun plans, busyness and housework just to get through the week. 
Somehow, in God’s wonderful plan He set things up to work in a truly good way. My husband is my protection, often and mostly it seems, from myself. I am ever so thankful God reminded me to listen. I am humbled by how my attitude was so crabby with him instead of trusting that he did, in fact, have my best interest at heart and could offer some wisdom where I was blinded by excitement. It’s not a common or popular message in our world to allow yourself to be led by a man. But in marriage, God set up a way to be protected, cherished and served, which sometimes looks like my man doing the dishes for me. And sometimes it looks like him telling me to slow down, hold back or stop. I realize not every husband embraces that role and not every marriage is loving. But I also know when both people live out the roles God gave them, it’s pretty amazing.

Titus Two 4 U – Use What You’ve Got!

Standard
“Poverty is the mother of Creativity” is a quote from my childhood bestie, Caryn Dahm (of http://www.ragtagrubies.com/  a totally awesome upcycled crafting and art business).

It’s true! As I am fasting the “shopping for self” I normally engage in, I am discovering a creative side to me I have always overlooked. So this morning, as I was feeling a bit restless I pulled some items I had around the house and created a little holiday mudroom entrance and it turned out pretty cute and it cost me nothing! Win, win, win!

If you read my blog about Pinterest a few months ago (I have since repented of my non-pinteresting ways) you know I tried to create a letter for an “alphabet wall” as a baby shower gift, which did not quite work out because I could not get the yarn t cover the ends of the letter. BUT as a “homespun” addition to this wreath it was perfect! I rummaged around my garage and found this old sled and a wreath that I was never very happy with, so I stripped it and started over. Anyway, not totally finished with the whole display, but it’s got my creative juices flowing.

So, aside from just decorating, this got me to thinking about the bigger principal of using what has already been provided instead of asking for more. Whether it’s showing hospitality to friends or ministering to the needy or using your gifts to serve your family or reaching out to those who do not know Christ- God has provided each of us with a set of “talents” and “treasures” to use to accomplish his purposes for us. It’s easier to keep looking at other’s treasures and saying “If only I was a better cook, or a more skilled teacher or a more impactful writer…..” as a way to deflect the responsibility of obedience. Or as a way to avoid fear of failure. Or both.

But, remember, God gave YOU talents and treasures that others don’t possess. They are meant to be used. Perhaps clumsily or even inadequately, but it is not you who is really working them. God works through you. You are the steward, He is the giver. You begin but He finishes. 

Titus Two 4 U – Develop a Job Description

Standard
Nobody ever interview’s you from HR before you take on the biggest job of your life. There is no explanation of benefits, call back’s for second interviews or checking your references. Basically God decides you are qualified and nine months after beginning the process you are hired as “Mom”.

So from then on there is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job you are responsible to complete.

That seems almost impossible. And certainly it requires utter dependence on God to give you grace and strength daily. But, I have also come to see that the mom’s I have known who are the most joyful and least stressed have given themselves a more defined job description than “All related tasks to Little Johnny are the sole responsibility of this woman 24/7.” It might look something like this-

Mother shall be responsible for the feeding and care of Little Johnny daily from 6am until 8pm. During alternate hours she will share on-call duties with Father. She will maintain a safe environment for him, provide emotional and spiritual development and see that his basic needs are met. This mother does not participate in school projects, costume making or exposure to loud noises- such as parades or monster truck races. Those needs will be met by father, or hired out. All hair cuts and shoe shopping shall also fall under father’s responsibilities. In the event that the child becomes sick, mother will cease any other normal functions and see completely to the care of the child, and shall be expected to accomplish normal daily tasks on an “as able” basis, such as cooking dinner, doing laundry, taking a shower, etc. As the child ages, morning hours shall change to reflect the mother’s need to sleep and the child’s ability to help himself to a bowl of cheerios and turn on cartoons for an hour. Mother will create and maintain traditions for the child, such as Sunday morning pancakes, but all traditions are subject to revision as seen fit by the mother. Mother always shares with father: doctor visits, parent-teacher conferences, Christmas Eve construction jobs, interviewing potential team members (ie, babysitters and coaches). Mother receives one night a month and two weekends a year “off duty” paid leave. Mother always chooses a restaurant to be taken to on Mother’s Day for lunch. Mother gets first pick of photo opp’s upon completion of raising child at high school graduation. And in the year following release of child into adulthood, Mother shall be given the option to take a trip to Europe.

Now, I’m not saying this reflects my particular job description, but I will say I don’t do parades. The bottom line is every mom is unique and has parts of the job she does really well and other parts she can’t tolerate. Recognizing which parts you need to hand off to dad/grandparents or hire out frees you up to enjoy and excel in the areas you love. And deciding ahead of time it’s okay to have some basic “hours” gives you the mental break needed to endure. 

Titus Two 4 U – Needs vs. Wants

Standard
I was so happy to get an extra hour of sleep this morning! Resetting my clocks after daylight savings time ends is quite thrilling. It’s 7am- wait, no, it’s only 6am!! I am always thinking if I could just add a 25th hour to my day it’d be “perfect”. (Which I realize is like saying, essentially, God should have added an extra hour to the whole earth rotation, which I’m pretty sure fringes on heretical) Anyway, that whole inner dialogue got me thinking about how often I say “I need _________” but when I break it down, it’s really not true. I want ___________. But I don’t need it. Sometimes it’s “stuff” I think I need. But my current “shopping fast” is proving to me it’s not true. (Let me add, as a side note, this is becoming VERY challenging as we approach holidays!! I keep forgetting, truly. Then I remember. Then I have to remind myself why this seemed like a good idea.) Sometimes it’s things for my kids. Sometimes it’s more rest or less stress. Sometimes I think I need more fun in my life. But God was bringing to mind the verse in Proverbs 31 about the wife of noble character last night, and a thought hit me. One of the reasons her family is so taken care of is she prepares for their needs.

I think as an American mama, I sometimes get it backward. I am busy preparing for wants, then the needs get pushed to the back. My kids want fun, new stuff, food they like, time to play. They need spiritual guidance, emotionally present parents, nutritious food/basic clothing. Now these are not necessarily opposed to one another. Sometimes I can provide all of them. But, when I can’t do it all, the needs should trump the wants. It’s easier to see this with my kids than myself however.

I need daily time with Jesus- I want to surf facebook or blog. I need nutritious food- I want dark chocolate and diet coke. I need meaningful relationships with other women who speak truth and love me well- I want friends who like me and are impressed with my efforts. I need a husband who loves me unconditionally- I want a husband who agrees with me.  I need to get a good night’s sleep- I want all the dishes out of the sink or the floor vacuumed. Again, these are not always opposed to one another. But too often I choose what I want over what I need. So as we are in the month of Thankfulness I want to take a minute to thank God for meeting my needs. And ask for His help in choosing to take that portion of provision instead of passing over it to find what I want.

Titus Two 4 U – Spider Webs

Standard
It’s October and I’m feeling inspired by all the creepy decor popping up around town. Currently I’m staring at a web that is attached on one side to my living room lamp and the other side to my living room wall. I have no idea how long this little web has been there but to make myself feel better, I shall assume it was created overnight, and not three weeks ago. Here’s the interesting thing about spiders in Tennessee- they are shockingly fast at creating their webs! One time I left my car window down over night, and I kid you not, the entire window was filled with a web in the morning when I went to get in my car. Not only are they fast- they are persistent. I had this one spider (I assume it was one- maybe it was several which would explain a lot, but ruin the example, so….. let’s move on) that would create a new web every day after I would knock the old one off my mailbox. Every day. For a really long time- maybe a year. I’d go out to get the mail, brush off the web and go inside. Next day, I’d go back out to get the mail, and new web. Exact same spot. It was a battle of wills with that spider. I think I won- it’s hard to be sure with spiders.

So, these industrious Tennessee spiders got me thinking about life. Here’s the thing: spiders just do what they’re made to do, regardless of the result. Knock down their web and they will build another one. No gripping about how hard they worked or how awful failure feels. No pouting or complaining or saying “I quit!” They just keep right on making their webs.

In my life, sometimes I have worked really, really hard trying to follow God’s leading, only to feel like all my efforts were for naught. The relationship didn’t get better, the checkbook is still crazy tight, the kids are still going through whatever stage of rebellion or frustration, the laundry- oh the laundry! You know what I mean. It’s as if all the hard work and emotional energy and conversations and planning and praying have not quite succeeded in accomplishing the beautiful “web” my mind was set on. It’s sad, and hard and it makes me want to shake my fist in the air (Scarlet O’Hara style) and say “I quit!” But what that really shows is I am most concerned with the results of my life- not the process. God however, is more about the  process. Excuse the stretch here but it’s kind of like Mr. Miagi in Karate Kid. Ralph Machio is so mad about having to “wax on- wax off” and “paint the fence” he wants to quit. It all seems so pointless as his goal is to learn some tricks he can use to keep from getting beat up on a regular basis, but Mr. Miagi is teaching him everything he needs, even though he can’t see it.

So, sweet friends, keep doing what God made you to do. Be the wife, mom, friend, worker, sister, daughter, aunt that God has called you to be. Mostly and mainly, be a worshipper of Him! Perseverance, the Bible says, produces character, which in turns produces hope. You don’t get hopeful by giving up and throwing in the towel. You get there by continuing to do the next right thing, over and over and over, until one day your character is changed. And it is in that change that hope appears. 

Titus Two 4 U – Make the Most of Time

Standard
There is an old, famous poem (and I’m sure most people know who wrote it, but alas I do not) that says “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may….” I don’t even know the rest of it- just that line. The significance of it hit me tonight. We came home from church and the boys went off with a friend to hang out instead of having dinner with us. “Doing their own thing” is a theme in my house right now. So it was just Emma, the husband and I around the table- and it hit me. I am at a crossroads in motherhood.

Two nights ago after a particularly tough conversation with my 15 year old I was feeling down. And to be honest, somewhat sorry for myself. It’s hard work loving a teenage boy who is not in the mood to love you back, but rather to let you know just how much he thinks you should be different. Less or more of anything than who and what you are. Ouch. Then today my oldest walked in to announce how delicious his friend’s mother’s birthday cakes are. “Not that yours are bad, but hers are just so much better” (I’m paraphrasing but that was the jist) This is the same child who I overheard telling a friend that his birthday party is kind of a disappointment this year. Sigh.

They are pulling away. It’s time and it’s normal. And it hurts. I want them to grow up and become men. And I want them to always be close to me. But I have to let go of the one to allow the other. So as I’m feeling all this emotion I look up after dinner to see my nine year old twirling around the living room with her daddy, dancing and laughing. In a split second, my boys were nine and seven and we were around the table listening to music and cracking jokes at dinner every night. They were imitating daddy and vying to get our attention with jokes. I blink and they are annoyed, distant teenagers, struggling with all their might for independence and freedom. I realize with a sudden feeling of panic and a lump in my throat that hurts when I swallow that very, very soon my nine year old will be in the same place. Oh I know it’s a few years off- but considering that 17 years has felt like a slow blink, that hardly comforts.

when my children were all littles….

So this is me on a sad day. Not all days with teenagers are like this. Mainly I have loved my sons journey’s into these years. But today I feel the loss. How I want so badly to slow time down and let me make sure I poured enough love and faith into them. What if I didn’t? What if I missed something terribly important? How I worry that our relationship will never quite be as close as those early years when they could climb up in my lap for hugs. How I wish I could know what goes on in their heads and hearts, but understand the need for them to keep some feelings and thoughts private. And the need to share some with anyone but mom.

So, I have many rosebuds I can no longer gather. And I have some left to pick. I intend to make the most of the few short years I have left with my sons at home, and continue to treasure every second I’m given with my whole family under one roof. And pray like crazy for the grace to hold them with an open palm.

Titus Two For U – Making Space to Want

Standard
Well, I told you about the book Seven that rocked my world this summer. It led me to deep thoughts about the way I see my role in this world and who God calls his children to be when He says we are “salt” and “light”. I began recycling which is going great (other than the first three weeks when I forgot to put the tub out by the curb so by week three I had too much to fit in the tub and had to just throw it away. That was a fail. BUT otherwise, it’s been lovely) .

So now God has been stirring another thought in me for a few months about how I fill up my wants so quickly. I’m actually quite a pro at it. I really can’t remember a time I deeply wanted anything that I wasn’t hatching a plan to fulfill it. The plan usually revolves around buying something, eating something or creating a plan to buy or eat something in the near future. None of these are wrong, of course. But at the same time, I hear God whispering to me, “Why won’t you just wait on me to fill you up?”

So, as we head into the busiest shopping, eating out season of the year, I made a small resolution to answer God’s whisper. It’s a little bit exciting and a little bit daunting. I, Debi Russell, will buy nothing for myself for the next 6 months. I really thought it through and determined it was a good way to create a little space to want and let God fill. To allow Him to move in my heart in ways I can’t when I feel all satisfied and stuffed and quenched. I just don’t let myself be very hungry or thirsty, metaphorically. (or otherwise) When David says in Psalms “My soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water” I cannot relate. Not really. But I long to.

So, just to be honest, I began the resolution a month ago, meaning I have five more months to go. Here’s what’s included in my non-buying plan: clothing, home decorations, jewelry, books, shoes (no new fall boots, sigh), purses, lunch out alone or little gifts for others “just because” (as these are essentially for me, because I love doing that, and I can easily replace it with baking something or writing a note). Here’s what I’m not including: gifts for birthdays/christmas for others, lunch with a friend, my nails (they’re already part of my grocery budget so I’m going with them), a new planner in January, replacement of an item that breaks if it’s my only one (like the hair dryer I bought last month).

Wish me well bloggy friends. I’ve taken off the shopper hat. I will absolutely keep you posted on the ups and downs over the next five months. Praying for God to give me His comfort and His joy as I say goodbye to my watered down versions of it for a bit.

Titus Two 4 U – Embrace Weird

Standard
You know what’s not weird in this world? Being on a band wagon against something. Everyone has some cause or issue they are against- abortion, republicans, democrats, taxes, gluten, Lance Armstrong, Lady Gaga, GMO’s, public schools, homeschooling, and on and on and on. I will be honest and say I find it exhausting and overwhelming to listen to all the internet rant on why people ought to be against whatever particular thing the ranter is against.

You know what is weird? Quietly going about being for something. I have so many highly inspiring friends who have determined to serve people. To reach out and show others the love of Christ by actually doing something about the problems they see in this broken world. My old youth pastor used to say being a person who did not: drink, smoke, have sex, curse, see the wrong movies, lie, cheat or steal made you no more spiritual than a department store mannequin. Biblical Christianity has always been defined by active obedience, not passive abstinence. Yes, there is a place and time to take a stand against sin and injustice in this world. But I find it utterly ineffective if not accompanied by a life lived for the good of others. Jesus did not just stand around telling everyone how wrong they were. He got his hands messy as he touched sick lepers and ate with drunken fishermen and sat with the town harlot. He fed hungry people, healed the hurting and cared for children.

Being a suburban wife and working mom of three has it’s challenges. One of them is how to get off bandwagons and onto the business fighting for people. I have found that there are really great ways to do this in my community through several ministries where I can be hands on relationally with folks who need some love and encouragement. I’ll give a shout out to GreenHouse Ministry, Doors of Hope, Branches (where I also get to work!) and The Journey Home.

I personally had to embrace weird a long time ago because I’m married to a guy who was weird enough to think he should quit a job with benefits and a salary to work instead as a church planter in India and raise his own salary. (Still no benefits unless you count the really amazing chai he brings home) I work for a non-profit where the question is occasionally are we going to buy toilet paper or light bulbs. We decided to let go of the “American dream” for a bigger one and it’s often terrifying but God has overwhelmingly changed us.