I recently had a birthday and now proudly boast that I have made it to 45 years old in relatively good health and quality of life. Even though I've overcome a lot through the years, I admit that I still find myself holding on to bad habits at times. One of those habits is the habit of negative thinking.
When this happens, I am reminded that I've perhaps let go of some of the foundations that helped build my Christian faith so many years ago.
Rick Warren, well-known author, founder and senior pastor of the Saddleback Church, writes in his daily devotion how to continue to grow in the Lord:
Growth Requires a Teachable Attitude
While you were given a brand new nature at the moment of conversion, you still have old habits, patterns, and practices that need to be removed and replaced.
We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves.
We often build our identities around our defects. We say, "It's just like me to be " and "It's just the way I am." The unconscious worry is that if I let go of my habit, my hurt, or my hang-up, who will I be? This fear can definitely slow down your growth.
Only as God is allowed to shine the light of his truth on our faults, failures, and hang-ups can we begin to work on them. This is why you cannot grow without a humble, teachable attitude.
Godly habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. You can't claim to have integrity unless it is your habit to always be honest.
Your habits define your character. There is only one way to develop the habits of Christ-like character: You must practice them - and that takes time!
These character-building habits are often called "spiritual disciplines," and they include such things as meditation, prayer, fasting, Bible study, simplicity, stewardship, solitude, submission, service and evangelism.
I am so grateful for these simple reminders from Christian leaders. The push to keep getting better, growing, and being humble helps me to take stock as I approach another 45 years of life.
"Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." ~ 1 Timothy 4:15-16
And we are so excited!
This has been my dream since the beginning of our journey of homeschooling our children. I hoped that we would one day have the finances and the time to spend serving overseas together! And it's finally here!
Thanks to my husband Andy Slamans' eCommerce business, Amazing Freedom, of which I am now a partner, we now have the FREEDOM to serve in Haiti alongside John Engle and his wife Merline Engle and Alex Myril through Haiti Partners.
I have always taught our children to be generous. Not just with their time but with their finances as well. So, Amazing Freedom and the Slamans want to invite you to be generous along with us. How?
Be Generous with your time: By joining us in prayer for this beautiful country and most of all the Haiti Partner's Children's Academy.
Be Generous with your resources: By donating to Haiti Partner's Social Impact program.
Our trip is paid for, so anything you give goes straight to the organization and not to us.
Find out more about Partnering with Haiti below:
I am probably the first ever self-proclaimed "anti-feminism feminist" in the world. I absolutely love and adore being a woman! I love the stance women are beginning to take for our own empowerment and overall welfare. For the first time in my personal history, I have witnessed more women empowered to fight back against the social disorders of this world than ever before.
It is so very refreshing and very long over due.
The numbers of women underutilized and ill-treated all over the world are staggering --just glance at the new economic survey revealing the long road women have taken globally, but also the long road still to go to gain acceptance.
These fights have made me proud to be a woman. I love being a woman. And I especially love being a Superwoman.
However, I have never been afraid to acknowledge that every once in awhile when my cape starts to weigh me down and the tasks become too great, I need to lean into the arms of my Superman, who is bigger, stronger, and faster than I will ever be.
My Superman is Christ.
Lately, I have come up against a few mountains that just won't move. They are too difficult to climb in my own strength. They have threatened to rob me of my health, emotional well-being, my peace and my joy. During these times Christ reassures me through the story of the Samaritan woman found in John Chapter 4. She was the first missionary who told everyone in her village about Jesus, a Jewish man who sought after her heart and loved and respected her despite her struggles and He set her free.
You have to understand during that particular time in history Jews did not typically associate themselves with Samaritans, and Jewish men certainly did not take the time to engage the heart of a woman. But my Superman did and He still does today.
Jesus is the founder of the equality movement. Jesus reminds me that His love is never sexist or demeaning. The Apostle Paul proclaimed one of God's promises to us in that our identity in Christ is not based on class, race or gender when he wrote in his letter to the Galatians around 50 A.D.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:28
Jesus reminds me that He can take on the weight of my world. He silences the cry in my soul and promises me rest and peace:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
It's not easy to shed my cape and lose the battle so that Christ can win it for me. But Jesus promises He will forever remain close to me even though He has given me a life full or burdens. He is perfectly fine with carrying them Himself, and quite frankly, I am happen to relinquish my cape to Him.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I am one blessed woman to have stayed married as long as I have. Andy and I will be celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary on November 25, 2017! This man is truly a saint for putting up with me for so long! Thank you, Andy Slamans for asking me to be your bride.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord. ~Proverbs 18:22
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? - Numbers 23:19
I had the opportunity to share a biblical truth through teaching at the Woman 2 Woman Leadership Conference, at Fleetwood Bible Church, yesterday, and it was a blessing indeed for my thirsty soul! The group of women we were chosen to bless was small and intimate--my favorite way to minister...which is up close. If you are not a Bible teacher, then you may not realize that when teachers of the Word join with God to bring forth His truth, there can be a spiritual battle during the preparation. Well, for the first time in a long while, I became very astute to the enemy's schemes and so I asked the Lord to guard me from any wounds, because lately, I have been battle-weary.
I can testify that God was faithful in answering my prayers. He touched my heart through the lesson I brought forth. Yes, He was speaking to me, as I prepared to speak to the women (honestly, I sometimes I wonder if my ministry to others is really for me with just an audience watching!!). He showed me that He wants more of me, and He shouted to me in my heart, that I am loved! I am in awe of His continued faithfulness to me over the years--especially when I am distant toward Him. He has never given up on me, and Dear Child, He will never give up on you. Trust Him today with your heart, and watch Him deliver you!
My most recent speaking engagement afforded me the opportunity to share with the Hershey Rotary our Leadership and Character Development initiative known as The Compass Project.
In Romans 5:3-5, we read: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Perseverance is a word that I have heard a lot lately due to the work I do with young people at Milton Hershey School. As a result of our school's mission, to develop Social and Emotional Learning skiils in our young people, we recently hosted a gentleman named Brad Cohen. Brad learned that he had Tourette Syndrome when he was 6 years old. His disability made school an excruciating experience for him and he began to loathe his entire education experience.
Until one day, his middle school principal gave him the opportunity to speak to his classmates about his disability and why he made the noises and ticks that he did. When he was finally able to educate his school about his Tourette's, he became empowered to make a difference through teaching. His classmates began to respect him and his struggle with his ticks and noises became less frequent.
He went to college to study education, teaching everyone along the way about his Tourette's Syndrome. After graduating Cum Laude, he went for his first interview with a school. 24 interviews and rejections later, one school decided to take a chance with Brad. They hired him even though he made distracting noises because he had an amazing strengths-based approach to teaching.
After his first year of teaching, Brad received the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher award for the state of Georgia. His story is also a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, titled "Front of the Class". Below is a summary of Brad's visit with our school where he spoke to over 2,500 students and staff about how he "persevered through adversity."
Today is the day my firstborn son died. He lived for 5 hours because one of his premature lungs collapsed. He was only 24 weeks old in my pregnancy. We named him Kobe because we love professional basketball. His death was the beginning of my dark and hopeless journey with the Lord. Little did I know that He had so much in store for me! 17 years later Kobe has a 14-year old little sister named Korri, and a 10-year old baby brother AJ who both love him so much! My journey of restoration, healing, hope and lifelong faith can be discovered through my book, Faith's Pursuit: Understanding God's Faithfulness In Suffering. Find out how I discovered God's hope and healing through this devastating loss by reading my book! It's on Amazon!
Reflecting on 2015 can't help but bring to mind the 2nd scariest event of my adult life (the death of our first born is my 1st). Our house fire in May is all I seem to remember of 2015. I remember the fear, combined with the bravery of the firefighters and my husband. Yet this fear and bravery was also intermingled with the sweet sound of my children singing, "Jesus Loves Me This I Know", while wrapped in blankets (given to them by our neighbors) and sitting on the cool concrete across the street. They sang with tears streaming down their soft cheeks, all the while cradling their dog, Hannah. Korri had grabbed her phone on the way out of the house and while sitting on the sidewalk, launched the YouVersion Bible app that was on her phone. She sat hugging her little brother as the three fire engines idled loudly in front of them. Our entire block was aglow during the midnight hours of May 1 with swirling lights, and our house was aglow with fire. Our house burning, with our car still in the garage, was one of the most helpless feelings I have felt in a very long time.
The only other time I felt that helpless was when our firstborn son, Kobe, lay clinging to his life after being born at 24 weeks gestation because of my high-risk pregnancy. Though he had working lungs, one of them collapsed and remained deflated, stuck like a wet balloon because it lacked the surfactant to keep them inflated, so he was living with only 1 lung. He died 5 short hours after his birth. Something inside me died as well. On January 12th of this year, Kobe will be turning 17 in Heaven. I can't help but think of all the things I missed because I never had the joy of raising him.
I do know, even when life gets difficult, God's sweet presence promises to carry us through, just as it did 17 years ago when God's love carried my broken heart through months and years of grief. He showed up again this year in the sweet songs of my children during a blazing house fire. If I had remained bitter to him so many years ago, my children would have never learned to trust in him during our house fire.
Jesus tells us in John 16:33 -
We will never know when the tragic events of our life will take place. But we can know the One who promises to carry us through them. What will your 2016 hold? In difficult times, what will you do? Who will you put your trust in?
Anyone else feel as if Christmas was strange this year?! Our country's climate held record-breaking temperatures most of the week. Tornadoes were frequent in Alabama and the Northeast had a 75-degree Christmas Eve.
My household had its own bouts of month-long bronchitis infections and other colds that seemed to linger with the warm temperatures. I even wondered if I was suffering from allergies. Last week as I gazed out of my office window, I spotted two trees sprouting blossoms as if it were early April! Even the infamous cherry blossoms that usually dot East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., in early March bloomed this month (see photo of live webcam taken as I am drafting this blog!)! You can track the blossoms on a live webcam at this website!
Needless to say, we stayed home this Christmas, which is also strange because we typically travel to Chicago this time of year (I believe that the house fire that we had in May has changed our perspective of what it means to truly have a home). So we stayed put.
Although our Christmas was "reverent" (complete with the Christmas story of Jesus' birth, Angels and messages of God's love for us), we still gave extravagant gifts and received them in return.
But the Lord Jesus gave me an extra special gift in the most unlikely form. We received a visitor on Christmas Day. She is a dearly loved soul who has seen her share of ups and downs. Her life has never been easy. She seems to transcend earthly existence. Sometimes when she speaks to me, I am convicted of my selfishness and greed. Other times I suffocate under the weight of her extreme brokenness and need. I have learned a long time ago that I am unable to truly help her so the weight becomes unbearable. This "visitor" is my twin sister who has been mentally ill and emotionally scarred our entire life.
We spent this Christmas evening playing board games, laughing and holding a guinea pig that we are baby-sitting for some friends over the holiday. We also enjoyed watching some of my 14 year-old daughter's favorite videos on YouTube. We even enjoyed late night burgers and fries from Sheetz (McDonald's was closed for Christmas)!
Right before my sister left, she handed her niece and nephew each a $5 bill for Christmas. She apologized to me later for her seemingly "small" gift because she wished she could have given them so much more but she wants to make it through the winter with the money she has saved up from temporary jobs. She is very familiar with homelessness, rape and violence. She used to live on the street for 6 years drowning in her own mental "demons" that were bent on destroying her.
After her apology, I was immediately awash with guilt over the money I spent for Christmas, the things I enjoy everyday that she doesn't have, and the steady paycheck I receive that she hasn't had in nine years.
When she left, I stayed up for a long while and wept. It was a selfish weeping for my own soul who receives more than I give and who loves conditionally more times than I care to admit. I also wept for the gift that I received--GRACE this Christmas in the form of my sister.
James 4:4-7 reads--