One Year Ago Today

WE HAVE A ONE -YEAR – OLD IN THE HOUSE!

This blog, Notes and Commentary, was born one year ago today.  Looking back on that first post really enlightened my perspective on this anniversary. Because I started, I have something to look back on. Because I started, I have lessons to share. Because I started, I am closer to where I want to be. And because I started, I am not where I used to be. Celebrating the success of starting!!!

We started Notes and Commentary sharing about jotting down the ideas, experiences, and notes on our lives. That focused evolved within the year. We realized our strong love of faith, family, and community is our worldview. The emphasis on noting is still present in the content. The blog reminds us of what God is speaking to us. “Notes are birthplaces of ideas. Notes are content” (Written in that first post).

Within the past year, I started a notebook I labeled “Big Idea Binder” and I asked God to help me stay mindful that I cannot abandon the ideas just because they are not ready to be birthed. I wrote them in the binder and I asked God to teach me to trust Him that He will guide me to bring them to fruition in his timing. ACTION ITEM: Make Your Big Idea Binder. Insert every idea that comes to your mind. Pray over these ideas and ask God to lead you into the next step for each of them.

June is my birthday month and that is what led me to start the blog in June. I promised myself I would write every day for thirty days. Well, I couldn’t keep it up for thirty days. I only wrote eleven posts in June 2016. But 11 is still more than 0. I share that to encourage the writer reading this post. Leave Your Zero Today. (That will preach!)

Here are a few things I learned giving birth to a blog.

  • Just Keep At It. It doesn’t have to be long or brand new content. Use your notes from past experiences. Read and write about what you read. Help yourself by reading blogging insights.
  • Create messages that inspire readers to act. I try to add an action item in all my content.
  • We can research for too long. You will not know everything there is to know about blogging when you start. Most of your development comes from trial and error. So just get started!
  • Use your notes and ideas for yourself and stop giving them away. It is okay to be selfish.
  • Accept help and ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone. Several people offer free information online. Reach out to a fellow blogger. Join a blogging community. I joined a Facebook community of Christian Women Communicators led by Kia Stephens and I love it!
  • Pay for resources. Why do we starve our creativity by being stingy with helpful purchases?
  • Educate yourself. Take some courses on software. Pay for consultation time. Read the fine print.
  • WordPress is not that simple. (Mind you, if I had done the previous action well before I started my blog, I may think differently.) Theme searching is nerve racking. I think new bloggers just wants to load the software, get the theme and get creating. Why does it have to be so hard?
  • Market yourself. Tell people that you are writing (I need help in this area.) Shy doesn’t sell.
  • Support other writers. Publish helpful resources. I often share the resources of those people I follow because it is helpful to me. Michael Hyatt, Natasha Robinson, Jonathan Milligan or Jeff Goins do not pay me a dime to drop their names in my post. Their information is helpful to me and so I share it with other writers. I was never involved in competitive sports. I hate feeling like I am in competition. If God disliked voices being heard at the same time, we would never have heavenly choirs. Be in concert, rather than competition. The role for creatives to play is to find those with whom you can collaborate and advocate for your respective messages in unison.

Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.”  I also think it takes consistency. I set a goal to write for thirty days last June. Well, that wasn’t a realistic goal. I had a two-year-old in the home and I just started a new job. So I failed in that 30 – day writing goal. By next June, I will have a better sense of my blog schedule and routine. My goal in this next year is to write more consistently in my worldview and establish myself as an authority on the topic of Family and Servant Leadership for communities and non-profit organizations. Notes and Commentary will become a resource hub and so the blog is going to share more applicable information with our audience. More action items! More how-to-teach content.

So there you have it. I have shared our journey from a reflective point of view.

Jeff Goins is right. One year later, I am so happy that I started.

Happy Birthday Blog!

 

 

Parenting the Stages of Life

It was over a decade ago that my oldest child changed our world. I remember leaving the hospital on that July afternoon in my brown, cotton sundress walking slowly towards the exit door as my husband carried our baby girl in her car seat. The reality of parenthood swept over me.  I recruited help.  First mom visited, then my mother-in-law, then some help from the sisters at church. Eventually, the help ran out. I had to face the fact that parenthood means you have the duty. And so began my mission to successfully accomplish milestones.

I don’t find it the least bit reassuring that the word milestone has a close similarity to its cousin millstone which means to have a heavy and inescapable responsibility. Did I ever use the word milestone before I became a parent? Parents never just look at the next step in development as a success, we are focusing two – three steps down the road. For that reason, I don’t think I ever celebrated her milestones.

Fast forward ten years, two boys added to our brood and many gray hairs in the front of my head, I am facing yet another milestone. She is now about to transition to her middle school years. I have been praying about this for months. I was having a conversation with my godmother when she said, “Jenesis only has seven years left before college.” Suddenly, I felt like I was behind the power curve. Stories of how middle school transforms our children began to create fear in my heart. Then one morning, the spirit of the Lord encouraged me to get excited about this time. Look at what she has accomplished in her decade of existence. I thought of her friends, teacher comments and many projects. I remembered when she cringed in fear at the Talent Show in 1st Grade. She held me in a death grip on the floor in front of the stage when her name was called to perform. My thoughts went from concentration on the elapsed time to focus on how I am the very best person for the job of facilitating her next move. Her life (as well as that of her brothers) has meant so much to my discovery of my purpose in this earth.

We, mothers and fathers, are given the responsibility of raising children to help bring about favorable outcomes for them. Call it what you will. As for me, parenting takes laborious effort. Yet, I am finding that intentional effort makes all the difference in whether your child reaches her milestones in due time. You should celebrate when they do.

It is graduation season and everyone is looking towards the future. What about the time in between the close of the last door and the opening of the next? Perhaps, you are not the parent of a graduate, but you are facing just as important a transition with your child. Maybe your daughter is having her first baby? Is your son about to start a new job? Here are some ways you can parent them through their passage to_________ (you fill in the blank).

Reflection is Good for the Soul Back in March, Victoria Beckham was deemed an “internet troller” for embarrassing her son, Brooklyn, in several photos posted to social media. Referencing the proud mother’s shameless gush over her son in post after post, Hollyscoop’s announcer @MADDISIONHILL93 stated, “Parents. How would anyone know about our accomplishments if we didn’t have them to brag about them for us?” I loved the truth in that statement. Brag on your child. We give parents a hard time because they brag. You should celebrate children. More importantly, brag to your child. Remind them of what they have done and retrace the road they have been on that has led them to the place they are today.

ACTION ITEM: Keep a large binder of their report cards, good grades, photos, writings and artwork. Sit down with them and flip through it. Afterward, have them write their own vision/purpose statement or draft a personal CV reflecting on their life experiences rather than on their held positions.

HOW IS THIS USEFUL? Children need to be directed to their life track. You want them to live their life. By showing them how they have lived to date, you are helping them re-center. This is also useful for your older children. You can’t imagine how thankful they will be that you helped them to remember the things they loved as children. It may just refocus their life’s purpose.

Model the Way It is a fact that we are our children’s first teachers. We influence their faith and their actions. Actions speak louder and resonate with children like no other message you give. Consistency with them is important. Stop with the sermons. (I am talking to myself here.) If you want them to practice good values for their lifetime, you have to model them before them. They will carry forward what you show them more than what you told them.

ACTION ITEM: Spend at least one period a month demonstrating something with your child like a new project or teaching a new skill such as how to make a certain dish. Memorize a Bible verse each week. In addition to reading a bedtime story, show them how to pray. Make a list of things that have been practiced at home (such as curfew). Practice consistency.

HOW IS THIS USEFUL? When your child does leave home, they will likely continue doing the things that they have practiced with you as well as what they have watched you do. Your rules at home will extend to their neck of the woods without your physical presence because your character presence before them has made an enduring impact.  

Be Village People As much as our children would like to think that they know how to pick friends, judge and listen to the right voices, they don’t. Parents, you have to introduce them to how to discern safe people and build community among like-minded supporters. You must encourage what my friend Natasha Robinson, author of “Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship”, calls “village” experiences. You want your child to gravitate towards life partnerships that encourage them to be their authentic self, value their unique gifts and encourage individual goal achievement—–PARENT THEM.

ACTION ITEM: Help your child list the characteristics of a friend and a safe person. Introduce them to people who can serve as mentors in their lives such as a professional in their desired career field. Invite their friends over so that you get to know the people around them. Read together the book, Touching the Holy: Ordinances, Self-Esteem, and Friendship by Robert J. Wicks. Talk to them about creating safe boundaries and how to protect their environment.

HOW IS THIS USEFUL? God created us to be relational people. Even after your child leaves home, they will need people. They need to know how to build a village and protect their fort. This will benefit them in the long run. Your child must know what belonging looks like and be able to cultivate healthy relationships. Help them understand that peculiar (1Peter 2: 9) is extraordinary.

I pray that this helps you look forward to the next stage in your child’s life with peace and reassurance.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for life and the blessing of progression through life’s stages. In a time of transition, let us recall Ecclesiastes 7:8 that reminds us that the end of a thing opens the door to a future reward.

Congratulations to whom it is due and best wishes on your achievement of this momentous milestone!

CELEBRATION TIME, COME ON!!!

How to greet a stranger

This week, I have been having some strange encounters of the blessed kind.

Let me explain what I mean.

On Monday morning, I noticed a woman and her daughter walking in the cold rain on my way to get money from the ATM. I turned around to ask them if they would like a ride. However, the mother and daughter refused my offer. It sort of hurt my feelings. I thought perhaps it was the huge afro on my head that scared the little girl.  But it also made me think of the way of the world today. I can’t imagine how anyone could see a mother walking in the rain with a child and not offer to give them a ride. But there were certainly several people that passed her before I did. Perhaps she refused another ride from someone else? Perhaps she was attempting to teach her daughter a lesson about missing the bus? Perhaps she is just another mother trying to prove to the world that she doesn’t need anybody? No matter what the reason, I bid her a good day with my standard, “God Bless You…” It is funny how those three meaningful words can be taken so lightly. It falls on deaf ears. Some people see it as a curse and not a blessing. Therefore, I have begun to follow the words with “…And know that Jesus loves you.” Many times, I get a strange look. The recipient has giggled or laughed at me.  But more often than not, the greeting is returned with a sheepish smile. Rare are the days when I receive a reciprocal blessing or thank you. Just last week, I shared my parting greeting with the woman at the check out in the dental office and the scheduler, who was in the next office over, peaked her head around the corner and stated, “I receive that for me too.” That warmed my heart. I was the one smiling then. I believe the Lord was pleased that day.

This morning, I was leaving the City Building and I had another strange encounter. I had just shared with the clerk at the Water and Sanitation desk, “Have a Blessed Day and know that Jesus Loves You” when I walked out into the hallway and couldn’t find my keys. I stood there near panicking when a retired police officer walked down the hall and noticed my three-year-old with me. He passed us by and then turned around to talk to my son. I thought it interesting that he stopped mid-stride in the other direction to turn around to us. I recognized his face from seeing him several times in the City paper.  He is a well know officer and community servant. He asked my son if he had been a good boy? I explained to Joshua that the man that he was talking to was a police officer so that he would know he was safe.  But what happened next really was a blessed moment.  The retired officer, pulled out his wallet and gave my son a few dollars and told him to buy himself an ice cream for being a good boy. I told him, “Thank you” and “God Bless You”. He smiled and continued in the same fashion he had been before he made the decision to stop to speak to my son. I smiled. A perfect stranger, with a servant’s heart, just rewarded me and my son. Again, I believe the Lord was pleased.

You may be reading this and thinking that it was just a chance encounter.  You may even think that I did something to attract the officer’s attention. I assure you I wasn’t looking fly this morning so that was not the case. But I do think my means of greeting a stranger is paying dividends. When I part my lips to commission a blessing to the strangers that I meet, I truly believe God’s blessings come back to me.

I happened to have accidently left my keys in the Water and Sanitation Office and had to go back for them. The clerk didn’t know the keys were there because they were hidden from her sight behind her console. I believe the hidden keys was a set-up to bless me. It was also an encouragement to continue sharing that God is in the blessing business.

Have a Blessed Day and Know That Jesus Loves You.

How will you greet the next stranger you meet?

Prayer: Blessed Father, you said in your word that they will know that we are yours by the love that we show (John 13:35). Our words may not mean much to some but they are blessings that produce fruit. May we be willing to commission, even strangers, the blessings that are ours to give. May we be mindful of the fruit the will manifest when we are obedient to carry forth your will.  In Jesus Name, Amen.