How to Help Those in West, TX

Devastation hit me as I found out about the explosion in West, Texas via Twitter just shortly before I was going to head to bed.  First thing this morning, I started tweeting those I follow who no doubt would be, or soon would be “in the know” about what Austinites can do to help. 

 So far today, this is what I have been able to gather from The Austinot, (@theAustinot), Way Out West Austin (@wowaustin)  and the Capital Area Food Bank (@CAFBTX):

(1) Visit a blood bank. Austin locations here:  http://www.bloodandtissue.org/cbc.php

(2) Make a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank. They are set up to send help to West.  https://secure3.convio.net/cafbtx/site/Donation2?df_id=1240&1240.donation=form1

(3) Fundraiser by Man Up Texas BBQ at la Barbecue on 4/28: http://manuptexasbbq.blogspot.com/2013/04/west-benefit-at-la-barbecue-sun-apr-28.html
If you know of any other benefits or organization that are mobilizing to help our fellow Texans, please leave a comment below with a link or way to verify the information. I will continually update this post with any new information that I see or receive over the next couple days.

“Don’t Mess With Texas.”  We take care of our own, right?

 

Hugged by a Stranger

As I was entering my favorite department store the other day, I observed two gals, a store associate and a customer, hug each other fiercely as long lost friends, truly thrilled to see one another.  The scene made me smile.  The associate, seeing me, called a cheery welcome to the store.  Not resisting I replied with a chuckle, “Wow I didn’t know customers got THAT kind of welcome when visiting the store. Does everyone get a hug like that?”

The customer laughed with me and said, “Well sure!” then reached out to grab me into a big, warm hug.  

The hug was fun and spontaneous, but it was genuine.  I hugged her back like she was my long lost friend too. That hug was the bright spot to what had been a cloudy day for me.

This sweet gal was someone that I never met before, nor did I know anything about other than she appeared to be close to my age; yet I could feel her genuineness from that exchange. She blessed my heart that day by her impulsive and kindly response.  
 
Later this scripture came to me:
 
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10 NKJVI have no idea of this person was a Christ follower, but her actions were representative of what this verse tells us:
 
“Be kindly affectionate”  – The Apostle Paul is charging us to be friendly, tender, warm to others, whether they are fellow believers or not.  Some of you may be terrified with this thought of hugging a total stranger in order to “be kindly affectionate”, but we can certainly give a smile of appreciation and a sincere “thank you” to an employee who processed our purchase at the store, can’t we?  
 
 “in honor”  –  We are also to honor other people in addition to being kind.  This is by appreciating, considering and valuing them.  When at a restaurant, do you give your server the chance to shine by asking their opinion or maybe what they would suggest from the menu?  Instead of giving that minimum tip for their capable service, do you give more? Do y add “I appreciate you!” to the grocery clerk who checks out your order?
 
 “giving preference to one another”  – Giving preference is choosing or selecting something before yourself.  Do you choose to go out of your way to do something or say something to someone else without thinking of yourself first, such as checking on a neighbor that you haven’t seen in awhile?  Or what about sharing cold bottles of water to workers laboring outside at your house or even the house next door? 
 
 Be careful though, because you may not even realize who is watching .  
 
Your kids will see you thank the associate.  And they will also hear if you complain about how long it took for her to ring up your purchase.  They will remember if you made an effort to do something for a neighbor that took time away from what you wanted to do. 
 
 There is too much impoliteness and discourtesy in the world today. With the veil of anonymity that the Internet and social media can bring, it can provide a platform for people to berate, humiliate and vilify others unashamedly and with cowardice.  By exhibiting and teaching courtesy, your kids will learn that doing what Jesus asks of us is more important that having the world revolve around them.
 
While it may be quite awhile before I hug another stranger, I do plan to work harder at being kindly affectionate, honoring and giving preference to others.  That may be just the type of “hug” someone is waiting for.
 
Have you had an experience similar to mine?  Please share your story here or add a link to your blog post so we can read about it!

The Importance of Servant Leadership

“Good leaders must first become good servants.”   –– Robert Greenleaf

When you look at it, “servant-leadership” seems to be a misnomer.  How can you lead but be on the serving end of the equation?  Wouldn’t that make a leader look weak?

The best way to answer this question may be to see a real-life example of true servant leadership.  Let’s look at John 13:1-20.

In this scripture passage, the disciples of Jesus are going to meet with him in the “upper room” to celebrate the Passover meal.  As in the custom of the day, there would be a house servant available who would wash the feet of the guests as they arrive.  This was a smelly, dirty job to be sure, since the major mode of transportation for people at that time was walking the sandy, gravelly streets and trails from one place to another.

This time, however, there was no servant.  And neither do you see any of the disciples offering to do it for the rest of the crew.  Instead, they sit down to have a meal with Jesus, unwashed.

It is before they begin the meal that Jesus himself stood, removed his robe, (I see this as the modern day “rolling up your sleeves”) procured the water basin, wrapped a towel around his waist as the servants did in those days, and personally washed the feet of each disciple.

Humbly. Gladly.

What could have the men been thinking as they watched their rabbi, their leader, bending before each man to hold, wash and dry each grimy foot? Were they embarrassed that Jesus was doing this dirty, unappealing job of a servant?  Scripture records only one verbal objection, that of Simon Peter, who speaks when everyone else was silent. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (Okay, it was a little obvious, but maybe Simon Peter was a little tongue-tied and sheepish to see what Jesus was willing to do, but that he and the others were not.)

After the job was complete, Jesus states:  “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.  I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”

Jesus was reiterating that “the exercise of leadership is to follow this model of servanthood.”  (IVP New Testament Commentary)  He was near the end of his ministry, and one of his last lessons was to stress the importance of servant-leadership to his disciples — a lesson that would help them as they took the gospel around the world.

“Servant-leadership all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up
and doing whatever it takes to help people win.
In that situation,
they don’t work for you, you work for them.”
— Ken Blanchard

In today’s society, it can be easy to detect those people who understand the importance and wisdom of servant-leadership, and that is how they act. Is the person “me-focused”– doing what it takes to press themselves forward to success, or are they “other-focused” — doing what it takes to press others forward to success?

The person who has “jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (James 3:16 NLT)  They may get what they want at the time, but in the end, they will not get lasting success.  No doubt because people will distrust them and give their loyalty and service elsewhere.

James goes on to say in verse 17:  “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”

Servant leaders follow this pure wisdom from God and express it in their leadership.  They ask:  “What do people need?  How can I help them get it?”  Leadership guru John Maxwell says,

“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.”

But when you do serve your followers, you will in turn be enriched anyway, since Jesus told his disciples in  John 13:18, “Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”

A real leader, one who is a servant-leader, isn’t the person to whom all things are done for, it the person who will help those who work with her and for her, teaching them and preparing them to one day be leaders.  There are plenty of managers out there who can manage and facilitate their workers to get things done.  It’s another thing to be a leader and help their workers to their own success.

To think aboutIn whatever your vocation is right now, what is one thing you can do to help an employee,  co-worker or associate towards success?  Are you willing to step back and be an example as Jesus was?

Living Wonderstruck: A Lesson about God

After finishing the book, “Wonderstruck” by Margaret Feinberg, I opted into her daily “21 Days of Wonder Challenge” to further my awakening to the wonders of God that are all around  . . . but that I always seem to miss.  

Today we are on day #17 and the subject is: God.  Her challenge was this: 
 
“With a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand, along with a Bible nearby, begin making a list of the characteristics of God. Write down various names for God. Record attributes of God. List promises of God. Then spend some time thanking God simply for who he is and offering words of adoration to him. The wonder of God’s presence awaits you.”
 
While this could be an easier exercise for some, I honestly admit that I had a hard time getting started.  Many attributes and characteristics did come to mind, but for this challenge, I thought it would be more relevant to journal the attributes of God that have a striking importance right now in my life’s journey.  
 
That’s where I had a hard time starting my list.  
 
At this point, I opened to the Psalms. There are so many things about God for which I am so glad and grateful, and they are all listed in the Psalms.  He is majestic, powerful, redeeming, all-knowledgeable.  He is the ultimate Guide, Comforter and our Salvation.  And so much more.
 
Finally, a word came to me.  Confidant.  
 
This wasn’t of my own thinking — I do believe that my Father was telling me in that moment of something about Him that I didn’t know enough about!  In the Psalms, I started digging for treasure.  
 
“… trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”
(Psalms 62:8: NLT)

This verse reminded me that it is okay for me to pour out my heart to Him and to tell Him anything and everything that is on my mind! I can weep before him, laugh with Him, share my soul with Him.  He wants me to, and better yet, He is going to reciprocate.

“The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”
(Psalms 25:14  NIV)

Jesus said to his disciples near the end of his earthly ministry: I no longer call you slaves [servants], because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:15 NLT)  

 
There was a realization that although I am happy to do that things that God wants me to do, He is asking me to be more than His servant. He wants to be my friend, one to whom I can confide anything and He can do the same in return.  What a wondrous revelation!

Margaret said today in her blog:  “Wondrous delight is found in the presence of God.”  Oh how true that was for me today!

 

Bless My Plan, Lord

At the beginning of each new year, many of us take time to make resolutions, set goals and plan what needs to be accomplished.  Some of us are eager to plan out each detail and post it for daily remembrance; others of us plan internally.  Either way, women have a drive and desire to accomplish — whether it is on large or small scale.

To accomplish our goals, some of us thrive on the busyness of getting there; others of us may have stress under the constant pressure to perform.  We may see those women who seem to “do it all” and then feel as though we aren’t doing enough.

Women today wear many “hats”, so to speak.  You may be a mom, entrepreneur, employee in the service industry, volunteer, ministry worker or other type of public service.  We all want to do our jobs well, and many of us have our jobs on the home front too. We want to know that whatever we do, are we doing enough?  Is what we are doing making an impact?

Can I encourage you that while striving for success is a good thing, we must remember that regardless where we make our work, we should not make plans for our lives first and then ask God to bless them — we are asked to come close to Him, communicate with Him, so He can show us what our plans should be.  No matter how busy you may be, you cannot be productive or effective unless you put God at the helm.

Once you are on the path God puts you on, you will see what is the most important, what has priority and what He wants you to focus on.  That will result in the success He wants you to have, for His glory.  And for your happiness and peace.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.   Proverbs 16:3 

The Real Winner of the 4th Grade Spelling Bee

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Last week, I made my ten-year-old son cry.  Can I be totally honest here and say that at the time, I wasn’t really sorry for it?  

 
We were in the midst of studying for the fourth grade spelling bee.  Josh was in the final group of 15 students who would complete in just two short days in front of his peers.  To prepare, he was given a list of 600 words to review in a week’s time.  The challenge would be a great way to teach Josh the benefits of hard work and good competition.
 
We were on word #247. 
 
“Mom! I’m missing too many words! I CAN’T DO THIS!”  
 
“Of course you can. You are the smartest kid I know. And the best speller.”
 
“No, I’m not. I can’t remember how to spell these words!”
 
“That’s because you haven’t learned them yet. We are learning them now.”
 
“How many words did I miss on this page?”
 
“Don’t worry about that. We are just reviewing right now.”
 
After a few more misspelled words, his eyes started to glisten with tears.
 
“Mom, I’m not good at this. Can we stop now?”
 
“No. I know you can do this. Just a couple more words and we’ll stop for the day.”
 
I felt like Mother of the Year.  NOT.
 
At the beginning of the week, I was sure that I knew my child and his capabilities.  He really was a good speller. Was I pushing him?  Yes.  Did I encourage him along the way?  Yes.  Was it hard work?  Yes.  (For him and for me!)  Doubts began to surface when the frustration would set in.  I could see how he was progressing, but he could not.  I was hoping to build his determination, but he was feeling defeat.  That’s where the tears began.

 

But even through this, I knew there was an importance of teaching him that doing new things can be difficult,  hard work pays off and there are rewards along the way.  It was my goal as his coach to motivate and to teach him some skills he could learn from the experience.  
 
When I would see his frustration, I would stop, encourage and praise him for what he was doing right.  It would be enough to keep him going through more words until we were finished with our 20 minutes.  The night before the spelling bee, we persevered through the rest of the list and by then, I wanted the whole thing to be over as much as he did.  While I could sense stress, I was quick to assure that those feelings were normal and I had no doubts of his skill.  
 
Despite my “motivational speeches” and my good intentions, I neglected one important thing:  to ask him what was going on right at that time in his mind and heart.  Instead, I was quick to give encouragement based on what I was seeing, not what I was hearing.  
 
It was then that my husband intervened.  Through his God-given wisdom, Chris could see that while Josh was nervous about the next day, he was not so much stressed as he was worried that he was going to disappoint his parents in the worst way imaginable:  by failing.  Josh, with his compassionate heart, will do anything to please and to keep peace. Chris not only encouraged Josh, but he prayed with him at bedtime and stayed with him until he was relaxed and could fall asleep.  
 
Josh didn’t need stress relief, he needed failure relief.  He needed to understand and grasp that no matter what, he had worked hard, and wherever he finished — we were his biggest cheerleaders.  
 
He didn’t need my motivation as much as he needed my patience, praise and prayer.  While he did agree that  he could do well in the spelling bee, he needed the assurance would be accepted, no matter what happened. 
 
The following morning, there was a brighter outlook.  I made a nutritious breakfast for Josh and sent him off to school on the bus, telling him we would see him at the spelling bee.  I promised not to sit too close.
 
We were prepared for anything, and I was as nervous as anything.  However, you want to know what I saw?  

Confidence.  At each turn, Josh came to the microphone and spelled word after word, not showing an ounce of nervousness or stress.  Seeing the assurance in this ten year old as he spelled for his peers was not as much the result of my coaching as it was an answer to prayer.  We were so happy and encouraged, we didn’t care how far he progressed through the contest.
 
He finished in second place.  
 
After several rounds between himself and another 4th grade girl to determine the winner, the moderator pulled out the 5th grade spelling list.  Josh got stuck on the word, “nitrogen”, but he finally realized where he had finished.  He was overjoyed with a grin that wouldn’t quit.
 
It was then that I cried.  Looking back — I believe that it was me who learned the most from the 4th grade spelling bee. 
 
Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord.  The Lord will be his confidence.  
(Jeremiah 17:7 GWT)

 

Here are a few things that did help us through this process. Maybe some of these will help you too!   

For Josh:  
  • Knowing when study times would be and that there was a designated amount of time allotted (15-20 minutes worked best).  Keeping shorter study times help lower frustration.
  • Allowing some free time in between reviewing sessions for a little reading or TV. 
  • Giving some guidelines of how the material could be studied. (Kids need to be guided on how to study and memorize.)
  • Granting undisturbed time to study alone, using his own thinking process.
For myself:
  • Remember to praise, congratulate, reward throughout the process!
  • Be patient and calm in order to deflect frustration. (Use chocolate if necessary. Seriously.)
  • Ask questions periodically:  “How are you doing?  Are you nervous? Where else can I help?”
  • Pray with my child so he knows where his strength comes from.