Midday Connection

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Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Midday blog: Change and Consistency

Where I live, there’s an art studio where children go to learn to paint, sculpt and create.  Each season, a new crop of clay creatures (a 3-legged alligator, a lopsided bird, a sitting penguin) are nestled underneath the bushes in front of the building.  I love the thought of how the children must look forward to displaying their creations in this secret sculpture jungle.

One thing, though, that’s really bothered me about this art studio is a cornstalk-skirted woman with a paper bonnet, holding a basket, who presides over the sculpture jungle.  The contents of her basket changes with the seasons, but she’s always there – faded, broken here and there, looking rather ratty.  Sometimes I sigh as I go by, tired of seeing her and wishing they would for Pete’s sake take her down or replace her with something new!  I admit that I’m a change fanatic in some areas of my life.  I love, love, love to rearrange my office and home furniture.  About every 3 months, I get the “rearrange bug” and I *must* rearrange and clear out clutter.

Recently, I stepped back, though, and thought about that cornstalk-skirted woman.  I began to think about her from the point of view of a child.  I remember how much consistency and familiarity meant to me as a child.  Small things like seeing a cornstalk-skirted woman each week, must add a sense of stability for the young art students.  Life is so full of change. And as we grow up, the change and movement increases so that we might tend to grasp at and hold on to the familiar in an attempt to secure our own stability.  We might mourn the loss of a familiar building or tree.  Visiting a childhood home or town might bring up complex emotions and some core stability is shifted.  (Of course, we must remember that our stability is only reliably found in Christ.)  As adults, how are we modeling assurance and stability for the children around us?

I’m understanding more the need for stability and consistency for children.  I’m coming to appreciate that cornstalk-skirted woman as a symbol of the preservation of innocence.  So, carry on, steadfast cornstalk-skirted woman.  Stand firm!

As an adult, what do you think about change and consistency?

Lori Neff

Lori is the senior producer of Midday Connection and editor/contributor for Daily Seeds: From Women Who Walk in Faith and Tending the Soul (Moody Publishers). She grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. Lori is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John (and their three fiesty cats). For more information and her blog please visit Lori’s website.

Guest blog: When Your Choices Take You Farther Away From Your Goals

As 2012 draws to a close, take time to reflect on your goals and choices this year. Perhaps your goals included being in a romantic relationship or starting a new business or ministry. Did your choices bring you closer to your goals? Or did your choices take you farther and farther away?

If achieving your goals feels exhausting and pointless, perhaps you are caught in an emotional rip current where you are unknowingly repeating unhealthy patterns that won’t get you to your goal. It’s like getting caught in an ocean rip current: you swim as hard as you can toward the shore (your goal), but because you are stuck in an unseen and powerful current pulling you out to sea, you end up exhausted and farther away from your goal. Because you don’t realize you are trapped in a rip current, you keep doing the same thing—swimming directly toward the shore—when your only hope is to do something counter-intuitive: temporarily give up on your goal and instead swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the rip current.

You can learn to recognize previously unseen forces from the past that are influencing your choices today by:

  • Educating yourself about your family of origin and its issues. Even the best parents will pass down some unhealthy patterns because all parents are human and therefore imperfect. The more dysfunctional your family, the more emotional rip currents you are likely to have.
  • Talking with and listening to God, healthy friends, and a counselor.

While you are learning to recognize and combat the powerful forces that can pull you back into unhealthy choices, stop trying to get to your shore (goal) for a while. Be willing to “swim” far from your goal until you are out of danger of making more unwise choices. For example, if you want to be in a romantic relationship, but keep choosing people who are emotionally unavailable or abusive, take a temporary break from dating while you do needed personal work. Once you are clear about your choices, have strengthened your boundaries and clarified your motivations, you will be ready to “swim” to your goal and have a much better chance of successfully getting there.

Jennifer DeglerJennifer Degler, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, life coach, and co-author of No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice—Instead of Good—Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends. A frequent speaker at women’s events and marriage retreats, she also maintains a counseling practice, seeing adults and couples in central Kentucky. As a life coach, she works with clients across the country helping them create lives they love. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and the founder of CWIVES, an organization devoted to helping Christian wives enhance their sexuality (www.cwives.com). Jennifer and her husband, Jeff, live in Lexington, Kentucky, and have two teenage children. For more information, please visit her website.

Midday blog: The Real View of Christ’s Birth

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.  The idyllic picture of Christmas Eve is children nestled all snug in their beds.

The truth of Christmas Eve on many levels is active, maybe even chaotic.  If you have young children, then you are racing around like crazy to get everything in order under the tree for Christmas morning.  Or you are getting up at the crack of dawn to make last minute preparations.

If you are about to have a child, your Christmas Eve might contain pacing the floor, lower abdominal cramping and even cries of pain.  You aren’t heading to bed for a peaceful sleep, that’s for certain.  You can’t lie down flat anymore and you’re up 5 times a night heading to the bathroom.  No one is snug in their bed if mom has gone into labor.

But labor in a hospital or with a midwife present is a far cry from labor in a smelly stable.  Those beautiful birthing rooms bear no resemblance to Mary’s experience birthing the Messiah.  Today’s western birthing experience contains a doctor or midwife, dad, maybe a grandma, but not shepherds and cows and sheep and probably stable mice scurrying about.  How comfortable would you feel lying on a bed of hay legs spread for who knows who to view the birth of your very first child.

Not such a Hallmark kind of picture, but it is the truth of how our Savior came into the world.  Even when we read from Luke’s gospel, “And she brought forth her firstborn, a son, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” we tend to sentimentalize the picture.

Giving birth to the Christ child cost Mary something.  It began with the loss of her reputation, her dignity, and ultimately it cost the life of her firstborn son.

May God grant us a few moments during this Christmas season to ponder a truer view of the birth of Christ this Christmas.

Anita Lustrea

Anita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

Guest blog: Words to Guide

During this time of year we spend a lot of time reflecting on our journey over the past year.  What did we accomplish?  What didn’t we accomplish? …our highs and lows.  For me I spend a lot of time doing creative art journaling throughout the year and then spend advent looking over what has happened.  It’s a time for reflection.

In years past I set resolutions and at the end of the year I would look to see if I accomplished what I set out to do in January.  Usually I would get one maybe two and then nothing.  At the end of the year instead of seeing what I did accomplish, I would only see my failures.  I hated that, especially at the time of year where I am supposed to be celebrating the birth of my savior.

So this year I did something a bit different.  I picked words to guide my year by,  matched scriptures to each one and memorized them throughout the year.  My three words were permission (James 1:5), trust (Romans 12:2, Hebrews 2:13) and courage (Joshua 1:9).   As I went through this year and the more I focused on the scriptures that went with each word, the more I began to think that God chose these words for me, not the other way around.  He showed up in more ways than I ever expected this year and instead of looking at what I didn’t accomplish by the end of the year or focusing on the bad news that my family and I are working through, I am looking at the promises of hope that He showed me.

I can only imagine that it was similar for Mary and Joseph.  While their year probably didn’t go as planned they trusted God with their lives that His plan and purpose were for the best.  Their trust in Him helps me to remain faithful and to know that my journey, no matter how crazy, has a purpose for His greater good.  So as this year comes to an end, I am full of gratitude and wait patiently to see how God will keep moving in my life. 

(You can listen to a Midday Connection program with Tamara regarding Art Journaling on our website.)

Tamara Peterson

Tamara has her undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas in Communication Design, she has worked at Fossil, Fellowship Church and now freelances from home. Three years ago, she started a ministry called Safe Blankets that gives handmade quilts to children in crisis situations. Since that time they have given over 150 quilts to children in the Chicago area. Tamara has been teaching art and journaling classes for the past 2 years at women’s retreats, various small groups and even at her own studio. In that time she has taught almost 200 women this way of connecting with God and discovering themselves. She lives in Skokie, IL with her husband and son.

For more information, please visit her website.

Guest blog: 6 “T’s” for Helping Kids thru Trauma

Six “T’s” for Helping Kids through Trauma

Togetherness. This is a time when your kids need to have you close. They need to know they’re safe. Pull in together as a family. Pray together. Be together. The antidote to trauma is safe, loving relationships. Coddle your children a little bit more. Stay in close proximity to them, particularly if they’re anxious or afraid.

 Touch and Tenderness. Touch is an expression of affection that reinforces proximity and closeness. It produces a calming affect. Fear makes our minds race and wander, but tender touch dispels it. Hold a hand. Stroke your children’s hair. Let them sit in your lap. Wrap your arms around them. Kiss them. Be present emotionally. If they’re acting out a little bit with anger, rebellion or defiance, it very well could be a fear response. Be sensitive to their behavior.

Talk. The questions will come: “Will a shooter come to my school?” “Why did he hurt those kids?” Be present, sensitive, and don’t offer pat answers. Engage them in age-appropriate discussion. Contrary to what many of us believe, talk doesn’t perpetuate anxiety—it helps to reduce it. Avoid graphic details, but don’t skirt around the issue. Become a safe place for them to bring their questions.

Truth. Fears of the unknown can paralyze us. Anchor their hearts in truths like, “Not everyone in the world is bad. You’re safe now. God loves us and is close to us.” Remember, our kids absorb us. Your mood, thoughts, and actions directly influence theirs. These truths flow through you—Mom and/or Dad. Share the promises of God’s Word with your kids. Pray for, and with, them.

Triggers. Someone screaming. A door slamming. A siren. What children experience or see on the news can deeply affect them. Don’t let your kids get overdosed with the news stories and all the gory details. This can lead to nightmares, excessive bouts of crying, deepening fear, and not wanting to attend school. Be attuned to your children. Don’t react to their emotions, respond lovingly.

Time. Don’t rush or ignore this process. Over the next several days, we will all be flooded with information about the shooting. Keep your life as normal as possible. Sameness and routine reinforce the message of safety for your kids. Your family stability over time will help dispel their fears.

Our children are not immune to the darkness and brokenness of our world. We may think that if we ignore this incident, our kids won’t know about it or feel the impact. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our kids need parents and teachers—those who have influence in their lives—to be emotionally present and invested, especially in moments like these.

This post is from the American Association of Christian Counselors blog. Read the entire post here.

Tim Clinton, Ed.D., (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor (LPC) and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes.

Midday blog: New Year Transitions

As Christmas approaches I’ve found myself thinking about the New Year already and what changes might happen at this natural transition point. Below are simply some thoughts about the transitions happening for me in the coming year, and I hope they might help you as you think about entering the new year well.

1)      Not continuing something just because you’ve been doing it. For the past year I have led a small group at my church. However transitions are happening with several the members of the group. We decided that the wisest decision was to disband the small group. I was tempted to try to keep the group going because it has been around for several years. In the end however, sometimes the wisest decision is to let something “die.” As I go into the New Year I’m excited about the new opportunities that will open up as my schedule changes. What is difficult to for you to give up that might actually create more space in your life?

2)      Looking forward to finishing. Right now I am looking forward to January as at that point I will be done with the classes portion of my Masters degree and will simply be focusing on my thesis. This next year will require more discipline from me, and yet at the same time introduces new motivation of getting close to finishing my degree. What is something that you’ve been working on that you can finish this coming year? What will it take to make that happen?

3)      Moving to better health. Given the craziness that has been my life the last couple of months with work, school and church all contributing much to my life,  one of the casualties has been that I often find myself grabbing “convenient” food. This year I am looking to make my own meals more often and to make them healthy meals. It will also be healthier for my wallet. For you this might look like moving to better spiritual health, or actively seeking improvement in another area of life.

Josh Klos is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Radio Communications, he has served as the engineer for Midday Connection since 2010. He is also a part of the volunteer College & 20’s group staff at his church and enjoys spending time outside, as well as at libraries, bookstores and various coffee shops. He’s busy these days with graduate school, where he studying communication and culture.

To learn more about Josh and read his blog, please visit his website.

Guest blog: Holiday Blues

For some people the holiday season feels anything but merry. You’ve lost a loved one. You’re recently divorced, or you’re all alone and the holidays only magnify your isolation and lack of family or close friends. Other’s dread Christmas because it conjures up bad memories of holidays past. There wasn’t peace, joy or good will. Only disappointment, conflict, and hurt that continues to rage wild.

If that’s you, let me share a few things that might help you get through these next few weeks.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Give yourself permission to grieve and process your pain. Too often we feel guilty for having negative emotions. Jesus knows how you feel and you don’t have to pretend. Journal as David did when he wrote his psalms. He often discovered after writing, he felt better and experienced God in a new way.

Daily look for the good. When we’re in pain, it’s hard to be intentional to look for the good tucked within each day. Before you go to sleep, scan the past 12 hours and ask yourself what happened today that you’re most grateful for? The Lord tells Isaiah, “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).

Do an act of kindness for someone you don’t know well. We can always find someone who is in need of a kind word, a good meal, a meaningful card, a hug, or our time. Jesus said, is more blessed to give than to receive. While you may not feel like it, give something of yourself. It will bless you as you bless another person.

Allow yourself to receive. Sometimes we’d rather sit home and eat a can of cold soup than accept an act of kindness from another person. We’re embarrassed and don’t want to feel needy. Yet God may have put you on someone’s heart to bless you. Let yourself receive their act of kindness and you both will be richer for it.

(You can listen to a Midday Connection program with Leslie Vernick from October 24, 2012 on our website.)

Leslie VernickLeslie Vernick is a licensed counselor with over 25 years of experience helping individuals, couples and families. She is a national speaker and author with expertise on the subjects of personal and spiritual growth, marriage improvement, conflict resolution, depression, child abuse and domestic violence.

For more information about Leslie Vernick, please visit her website.

Midday blog: The challenge of disconnecting

A couple of weekends ago Dave and I spent a weekend in Seattle to celebrate his birthday and our anniversary. We’d cashed in airline miles and friends wonderfully let us use their home. That Saturday we trekked to Snoqualmie Falls. The day was filled with Native American history, carolers singing as the giant Salish Lodge Christmas tree was lit, hot Christmas tea and cookies out doors on the porch, watching a bride pose for pictures in her soft white faux fur stole, finding a hiker medallion for my walking stick back home, eating a nouveau cuisine lunch in the attic of the Lodge, watching the Santa train pull through a historic mountain town. As a first timer to the Seattle area I took in the unique geography of rain, mountains, Puget Sound, flowers in December, the food and crafts of Pike Place Market, multitudinous coffee shops, pine and even an occasional palm tree.

But I was also feeling at odds. I didn’t sense any big message from God over the weekend. No big or even small revelations were delivered.

I turned to Dave at a coffee shop and flatly stated, “I have no point for this Seattle blog I am writing. It just is.” He looked at me through his readers and said, “Maybe that’s the point.”

“It just is.” The gift of taking in, coupled with several days of no responsibility was so shocking I hardly knew how to receive it. It was more troubling than welcome. Where were the Spirit filled ah-ha moments? I’m so used to spiritual and personal observing and scanning at all times, that letting go of being overtly involved with my life for several days just felt very strange.

The Fray sings, “Be still and know that I’m with you. Be still and know that I am here. Be still and know that I’m with you, be still, be still and know.” I hadn’t imagined that coffee-drinking my way through Seattle could actually feel like coming off of some kind of soul-adrenaline. I’m thinking about that.

Melinda SchmidtMelinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. To learn more about Melinda, her speaking schedule and her blog please visit her website.

Guest blog: The Power of My Grandma’s Smile

In our family room hangs a large collage—photographs of Dad’s side of the family, going back four generations to the couple who made their way across the Atlantic in the 1890s to start a new life in this country.

The pictures came from Grandma’s albums, which passed to my uncle and my dad when she died. My brother spent a summer scanning the photos so everyone could have copies. I made prints and hung several in this frame to remind my family where we came from. They also remind me about some gifts I was born with.

One picture shows the immigrant couple looking soberly toward the camera. I don’t know what hardships they endured or how often they wondered whether they had made the right choice. Their leap of faith made me an American, and I wish they could have known I would admire their courage.

In one picture, Grandma sits on the porch of her farmhouse, shucking 10 ears of corn—their entire crop in 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl. Grandma and Grandpa took pictures of each other with the pathetic harvest, both smiling.

In another, a young farmer holds his infant son and shields him from the sun. I know it made a world of difference that Grandpa, who I barely remember as a frail old man, chose to be a good father to my dad.

Another shows a congregation standing outside the country church my great-great-grandfather built—where both my grandparents were memorialized. In this church, I was dedicated to the Lord as a baby.

In the center is a photo of Mom & Dad cutting their wedding cake, suspended for a moment. The way they chose to go into life together has affected every day of my life.

I think a lot about my children, but not much about the people who will come after them, and the ones after them. I’m sobered to realize my choices will bless or curse generations to come. I want that collage to remind me that who I am will matter a lot to people I’ll never meet.

Amy SimpsonAmy Simpson is editor of Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership, a freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (InterVarsity Press). You can find her at www.AmySimpsonOnline.com  and on Twitter @aresimpson.

Midday blog: A Different Christmas

Last year was a very different Christmas for me. My husband was out of town for a few weeks, so I decided to do all of the fun Christmas things I never seemed to have time for in the past – Middle School plays, chorals, shopping, cookie exchanges, galas. I did a lot of festive activity and it was wonderful! I was busy and happy.

This year, I noticed myself getting more and more anxious as holidays approached. I had planned on trying to repeat last year’s experience, but honestly… I don’t want to go out a lot this year. I don’t feel very Christmas-y. I don’t want to spend money on event tickets. My schedule doesn’t even seem to be matching up to the events that I went to last year. Why did it seem so hard this year to make it happen? It all felt so forced. I finally asked myself, “What DO I want? What do I need THIS year?” Last year, I needed some busyness and company to stave off loneliness since my husband was out of town. This year, my husband is here, my extended family won’t be in town for Christmas, and I’m feeling burned out with the rush of a very busy 2012. This Christmas, I need peace. I need some quiet and space. So, I’ve decided to focus on Advent this year. I went out and bought a pretty candle to burn while I read my Advent devotional each morning. The thought of a ritual, something special, every day is so appealing. Those little preparations are bringing me joy and they just feel right.

In naming what I needed, I gave myself permission to back off on the pressure to make plans. I’m hoping that the extra space in my calendar will also allow for some more time with people I love. I’m feeling at ease… looking forward to a different Christmas.

What do YOU need this Christmas?

lorineffnewLori Neff is the senior producer for the award-winning national radio program, Midday Connection. Lori grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art (looking at it and creating it), music, literature, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, traveling, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John.

To learn more about Lori and read her blog, please visit visit her website.

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