Monthly Archives: September 2015

I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

I spent the weekend with a group of younger women, some of them half my age. I  have to admit it has been while since I was doing anything at 2 a.m. other than possibly making a sleepy trek to the bathroom. It was so much fun!

It was a “Key Women” retreat, a time to renew and refresh commitments to be and be surrounded by women who, as Ann Voskamp puts it, “free you to be your best you, your unbound you, your beautiful you”. There was a lot of laughter and a few tears.

As I looked around the room I was overwhelmed by the power of what I witnessed. These were diverse women: an attorney, state at home moms, an administrator, and teachers…some are fashionistas and others are most comfortable in yoga pants and t-shirts.

Some struggle with perfectionism and others are comfortable with a sink full of dishes and piles of waiting laundry. Introverts and extroverts, melancholy and sanguine and more.

How can a group of women, so diverse, so different from one another in many ways, love each other at this level?

It began with a choice to stop “holding one another to a standard of perfection instead of letting us all be held by His arms of grace.”[i] (Ann says it so well…take a few minutes to read her post, referenced below)

They’ve decided to release and free one another to be the best and most real version of who God has designed them to be.

It doesn’t matter if they stand at a sink or sit at a screen, spend their days with children or in a courtroom; whether they occupy a cubicle, the corner office or the driver’s seat of a minivan; each one has a unique calling and giftedness.

They won’t judge one another for their housekeeping, design choices, parenting skills, size of their waist or the style of their hair.

I wasn’t there to speak or lead. I was just their mentor, at a very different place in my life. I am amazed by what I see God doing in them, individually and collectively.

My generation was expected to perform with perfection. Perfect walk, perfect home, perfect marriage. The mentors in my life encouraged striving toward clean homes, clean children, clean cars and clean living. It was exhausting and impossible. I felt the sting of criticism rather than open arms of grace.

These women are encouraging one another to become rather than do. They are liberating one another from self-doubt, self-pity and self-loathing. They are encouraging one another to let Christ be real in them.

They are women who have chosen to clothe themselves with love and do the hard work of cultivating relationships that go deep and require looking at women with eyes of love and compassion rather than through lenses of criticism and judgment.

Do you have key women in your life? How are you encouraging them? What have they brought to your life that has helped release you from the bondage of perfectionism and performance?

Praying you’ll find your keys.



So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. – Colossians 3:12-17



On Super Women and the Power of Love



In the 80’s hubby and I were right in the middle of raising our daughters when the blockbuster “Back to the Future” was released. We enjoyed the movie (still do to this day) and I LOVED the song that Huey Lewis & The News wrote for it. Great music!

It don’t take money and it don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel
You won’t feel nothin’ till you feel You feel the power, just the power of love
That’s the power, that’s the power of love.

“The power of love is a curious thing.”  I know that the songwriters were going down the road of romantic love, which I happen to think is just grand and I am a big fan.  I hope if those fellas ever read this they’ll grant me grace as I go another direction with the power of love.

It’s even more curious to most when witnessing the power of selfless love outside of the romantic realm.  This love is manifested in more ways than I could list but I’ve seen it in exhausted caregivers, patient teachers, parents of rebellious teenagers, widows, new parents and desperate, hurting spouses.

This love is never formed on unstable emotions. It persists through hurt, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, disappointment, and shattered hopes and dreams. It looks with hope beyond the current moment. It digs deep and finds strength and stamina for the day. It doesn’t always do it quietly, or without struggle, and at times it’s not the least bit graceful.

George MudderIn fact, it resembles a tough mudder more often than a ballet.

At the end of some days, this lover literally stumbles to the finish. This is no sprint, and sometimes she digs deep in order to make the final turn. We’ve all marveled at these “super humans” who just won’t quit.

What if this isn’t some super power reserved for a few.  Perhaps there aren’t people who have some secret endurance, available to an exclusive few. You see, they are not sufficient for the task either.

Mudder Family

I believe it might be that they’ve caught hold of this promise – walking it out in faith in response to His love:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 1Cor 12:9

Weakness isn’t the part that we notice.  We see the power of Christ as it rests on them, made perfect in weak moments and weary minds.  It’s in weakness, when the task is too big, when skills are inadequate and the call is beyond our current capacity that HE enters in. It is a powerful thing to trust God to do what is beyond our resources.

But why? Why press on?  Why be so willing to be hurt, to be disappointed, go the extra mile and give up personal comfort.  There is only one answer.  When everything else has fallen away, when every other motivation to hang in there has faded, we are left with this:

 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG

Rest in his grace, but love with extravagant abandon. His love woos. His love is unconditional and doesn’t give up even when we play hard to get. Love like that, by His grace. And then wait for it. The power of love.

Grace and the Mouse


Preface: This isn’t my normal blog post, but this is what’s fresh and real.  I hope it is relevant and even fun for some of you. As always, thanks for reading!

John  Mine Train

I just spent four days at Disney World on a park hopping tour with six children. Based on our rough estimate, we’ve done this twenty seven times in the past two years. The faces of the children have varied and we’ve actually had an extra once or twice. In every case, we’ve had no less than three in diapers and the age range has varied from a few weeks to eleven years.

Let’s just say that we don’t land quietly in the Magic Kingdom.

There is a lot of preparation each night. Clothes and shoes are all lined up, ready for the joint effort that will dress the littles as they rise. Diaper bags are packed and lined up near the door. A plan is in place for portable breakfast. Mom is the last one to bed and the first one up each morning. This sort of preparation is key and my offspring has this down to a science.  She’s a super mom!

night before

Lunches and snacks are prepared the night before, as well. We love that the Disney companies allow us to bring food into the parks. Food that travels well, like peanut butter and jelly, solid fruit and cheese sticks are great. Anything that can be eaten on the run is our preference. Of course, the lunchbox menu varies by park, since we have favorites that we love to purchase and eat in each. And lest you think we brown bag it all day, we’ve learned to snack on the run to maintain blood sugar (thereby reducing meltdowns…at least among the children) and sit everyone down for a good meal in a favorite quick serve restaurant mid-afternoon. Since we are a large presence, it’s best to plan away from the peak service times and we’ve found this approach works great when planning our day.

We push three strollers. At most parks we skip the tram and hoof it to the park entrance. Loading the tram with strollers, half a dozen bags and coolers along with six children is not only serious heavy lifting, we fill a lot of seats. If we’ve parked too far away – this typically happens at the Magic Kingdom, Mom and Dad push the strollers to the entrance, loaded with all of the bags, and the grandmas ride the tram with children in tow. Our motto: “Trams are for people, not stuff”.


The next stop that requires stamina and some serious skills is bag check. This is not an exercise for the weak or timid. All of those diaper bags and lunch bags, as well as any personal items like fanny packs or purses have to be checked by the Disney security staff. It’s a contest of efficiency and speed and one of the first opportunities of the day to show kindness to the park staff. It’s also the first opportunity for a child to get separated, so we typically assign one adult to corral any “loose” children.

While we are on the topic of getting lost, we always have the conversation with the children about what to do if they get separated from the crew. “Look for a cast member – they will be wearing a name tag.” And when we enter the park, we immediately point out cast members and draw attention to said name tag. I would love to tell you that we’ve never actually lost a child, but we have one little boy who notices everything and sometimes stops to investigate. Let’s just say that we can vouch for the efficiency of Disney’s parent location procedures.

In addition to the age variation, we have four boys and two girls. Princesses are high on the list for one sister, and to their credit, the older brothers have stood in long lines with her. When Anna and Elsa debuted it was a family affair. We couldn’t wait to meet them and everyone hung in there in spite of a chilly rain and long line. However, we’ve learned that at times it’s efficient for our crew to divide and conquer. That said, we make sure to frequently regroup and have lots of shared experiences.


He has waited for so long for this day – the force push!!!!

botherscousinsjedi proncessBruce

There are plenty of blogs that are dedicated to helping you get the most from your visit to Disney World, so I won’t try to do that. This post is about assuring you that you can do it with lots of littles. My recommendation?

Take a least one grandma (two is even better). In the afternoon, help Grandma find an out of the way spot for the littles to nap in their strollers. This is the time for her to put her feet up, sip on an iced coffee and celebrate the joy of introducing a new generation to the magic of Walt Disney.

Grandmaand babies

On this trip we logged in excess of 20,000 steps on Magic Kingdom days and nearly as many at other parks. I must be honest, it’s not all fun and games. The days can be long, and it’s a very different day with infants in tow. Although we appreciate baby care centers, they are never nearby when you need them. Take a thermos of hot water if you’ll need to make formula on the fly. Hot water is not easy to come by in the parks.

sleep jsleep E

In Central Florida it’s hot this time of year, and afternoon showers are typical. Make sure you have protection from the rain, not only for yourselves but also for those strollers. If you don’t have a stroller cover, just make do with a clear parka. Buy them BEFORE you go to the parks – your wallet will thank you! You are already carrying all of that other stuff in…what’s a few rain parkas?

If you have to exit the park near closing, be prepared for crowded monorails and melt downs…possibly by the children. It happens, friends. I will say that making sure everyone has recently had a high protein snack is a good plan – and may reduce the meltdown potential. But it’s not a long ride, and then all of those good people who were judging you will have something to discuss when you go your separate ways (insert sarcastic smiley here!). And most likely, your preschooler will magically feel better and the ride home will be much more pleasant. Grace in these moments is harder to extend but I find myself in need of it as well.

I love experiencing the parks with children. I’ve found that sharing the wonder and joy through their eyes is magical. On a recent visit, as we drove onto property via Western Way, my three year old grandson spotted the welcome sign that features Mickey, Minnie and Donald. He said “Home.” Yes, little buddy, I agree. It’s always good to come home.

mine train

When the What-ifs Tempt Us to Miss All that Was


jj umbrella

It’s Wednesday. Smack in the middle of the week and middle of the morning. A time when business is in full swing, classrooms are filled with learners and the gym is packed with stay at home moms. Retirees are just leaving the local diner after sharing coffee with friends. And no one goes to funerals any more. Yet at 9:30, as we drove along the tree canopied street into the little town of Windermere, the First Baptist church came into view and the parking area already was filling up.

You’ve heard it said: Moms and dads shouldn’t have to bury their children. And yet today, dear friends would share their grief publicly so that others might enter in alongside them. We stepped from the humid sunshine into the cool relief of the sanctuary and took a seat. Light streamed from high stained-glass windows and a constant stream of people filled every seat in that sanctuary. I surveyed the room as the family entered and the service began and realized that this group of people, gathered to remember his life, were a portrait of how JJ lived and why. Among the nearly four hundred were teachers, administrators, classmates, and coaches. Entire families filled pews. There were businessmen, retirees, and soccer moms. There was diversity, not only in age and occupation, but in race. These were JJ’s people and their lives were on hold to honor his.

chainsSongs of praise filled the room. Words about God’s amazing grace.

I was positioned, though unintentionally, such that I could see my friend there on the front row. A woman who loses her husband is a widow. What word in our language is there to apply to a woman who loses her child? I know of none, but in that moment, I saw the grace of God and as this woman comforted her daughter and listened intently to the words of wisdom and love from the Bible, the only hope we have when our world has just crashed in on us. And I realized … she will always be “mother”.

After a courageous grandfather shared his memories, the pastor spoke. Early in his message, he said this (paraphrased): “In times like these, we are tempted to go to ‘What ifs?’ We want to look ahead at all that will be never be, and we miss the obvious opportunity to share and celebrate the life that was lived.”

During the days between the accident that took JJ’s life and the funeral, I wanted to know him better. My knowledge of JJ was mostly second hand. My husband loved and mentored him in high school and beyond. They were buddies, but I didn’t know him well. I was in the audience when he played the role of a woman in a scandalous high school performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. I witnessed his team spirit at Foundation Academy football games, where he was known for doing whatever was necessary to get the fans on their feet. I chuckled at his sense of humor – there are some hilarious videos on You Tube. I stalked his Facebook page and got up to speed on recent events, where his growing talents were evident. I even found his voter registration online, and was not at all surprised to see that he listed his race as “multi”. JJ loved people, and he embraced and championed diversity.

JJ has finished his race. He was a world changer and I’m tempted to go to the “what ifs” — we will never understand why JJ lived a short life, just shy of twenty-two years. Short life, long impact — that’s what that preacher man said from the pulpit that hot August morning. And we have assurance that he is more alive than ever in the presence of Jesus. Finally, his questions are answered and his intellect and knowledge are in perfect harmony with his Lord. JJ, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I hope so. You had more impact on my life in dying than most will in long living. I’m going to make a promise to you, young man: I’m gonna keep it classy down here and make sure that I treat people the way you did. I love you, man!