Loved: Five Minute Friday

It’s Friday and I’m joining my usual Friday link-up with the other writers at Five Minute Friday. Every week we gather as a Christian writer community and craft short posts all centered around a common topic. This week our topic is Loved. Below is my unedited five minute post.

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This week has been exhausting.

I made my return to the classroom after a seven month maternity leave, my oldest started kindergarten, my baby went to her first sitter, and I am still a little jet lagged from a month abroad. Everyday we’ve taken naps as a family when we get home. All four of us are experiencing the “first week drag.” But in the midst of the fatigue I must say that I feel loved.

I feel loved that so many people have been praying for me or checking on me during this time of transition. I feel loved that so many have offered to help. I feel loved that our daughter was welcomed into school by amazing teachers and friends. I feel loved that the Lord would call me to educate the next generation in my classroom.

As the school year began the prayer I kept repeating was, “Lord, help my students to feel loved this year.”

I am praying for energy and strength to love even the most difficult student. I am praying that my classroom is a place of peace and refuge. I am praying that during the 180 days that I am given with this group of kids that each of them encounter God’s love in some way. As a public school teacher I may not be able to speak it, but I have every right to live it.

I pray that every student feels loved in my classroom this year.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Is Fair Trade a Spiritual Issue?

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While attending church this week in England I was personally challenged by the idea that our consumption has direct impact on the lives of thousands. The speaker went through examples of interactions most people have over the course of the day and how everything connects us to the world beyond our local market. For example, when you eat breakfast you are supporting farmers, factories, and workers worldwide. When you go to work you are in direct or indirect contact with clients, suppliers, adults, children, or any variation of that list. Every decision we make for ourselves no matter how small has an influence on the life of others.

So how does that relate to our spirituality?

In Psalm 33:5 the author states, “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the Earth is full of his unfailing love.”

I won’t pretend to have much knowledge about fair trade. I have found the website for the Fairtrade Foundation to be helpful, but to be honest I never really thought much about the impact being a fair trade consumer can have on the world around me. By choosing to support small farms with our shopping we give farmers a voice in their market. The business world is focused on large brands and companies that receive large profits and in many cases their workers face harsh conditions and minimal pay.

I’ve never really looked at grocery shopping in this way. But one way I can contribute to the marginalized is to pay the extra fee to choose fair trade products whenever necessary. And why should I do this? Because God calls us to care for the poor, sick, injured, and those too weak to stand up for themselves. With the knowledge about fair trade options I cannot in good conscience continue to support businesses who treat their employees as less than the value they deserve. The right choice is always one that speaks love and hope. Giving small farms an opportunity to thrive is doing my part to foster justice in business.

I know it isn’t always possible, and there are times when we prefer products put out by the tycoons, but the more you investigate the issue the more disgusted you will become with the practices of some well known companies.

Once our eyes are opened to this kind of suffering in the world we can’t stand by and do nothing.

I am challenging myself this week to find one way that I can adjust my habits to support fair trade. For me, that starts with coffee–something I consume on a daily basis and one of the most abused markets for farmers. I plan to spend time researching coffee brands that I tend to purchase and make informed decisions moving forward about where and how to get my coffee fix. I know that research will really open my eyes and if you have insight into the coffee market specifically please feel free to offer your experiences. As time goes on I plan to expand my fair trade choices.

The treatment and livelihood of others rests in my choices. What costs me a little can save others so much.

Anyone else out there passionate about fair trade?

The Ameri Brit Mom

Be Your First Priority

I found this post in a draft folder I wrote in 2016. My life has changed a lot since I wrote this originally, but I still need to heed this reminder in my life today. As you read this post, I challenge you to think about ways that you can make yourself a priority:

Life is demanding isn’t it?

So many things compete for our time and attention. Everyday is a struggle between tasks, passions, and priorities. Some days we win and find time to do something we love and other days we have to dig ourselves out of piles of expectations just to go to sleep at night. One of the biggest battles we face in this world is making decisions.

As Christians we understand the impact that each decision can have on our destiny and our lives, but sometimes we lose sight of that when it comes to the day-to-day. We get that God calls us to read our Bible, but that doesn’t always happen. We understand that God calls us to do great things for Him, but maybe we will start that tomorrow. We know that the passions God has placed on our hearts are for a purpose, but do we really pursue them as God intended?

In my personal quest to find balance in my life as a Christian, wife, mother, and full-time teacher I’ve come to recognize that the answer is to make time for ME. It may sound selfish, but if I am not taking time to listen to the heart of God and pursue the desires he  put in my heart then I am not fulfilling my purpose and I am left feeling empty. I could fill my schedule with every good intention, but unless I am able to take some time each day and focus on myself and who I am in God it is almost impossible to live in alignment with God’s Word.

Without that daily time for me I can end up just rushing through everything in life so that it can become an item checked-off the to-do list. I miss opportunities that God may be giving me each day to impact other’s for Him. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to be my first priority. Before anything or anyone else I need to focus on me. I’ve been at it for a few years to find a pattern for myself that works. I’m not going to say that everyday I get it right, but I’ve made exponential progress in the area of reclaiming myself on the priority list. If you are like me and struggle to find that time to yourself everyday here are a few ideas for getting this time.

  1. Create a Prayer Journal– It’s really a two for one. You get to focus on you and your relationship with God. Some days I find myself willing to set apart time with God, but losing the focus of that time. My mind can start off in the right place, but wander toward other things if I’m not careful. One thing I’ve found to be helpful is keeping a prayer journal. Each morning I wake up and go to my quiet place in the house where I am out of reach from anyone else. I lose the distractions and I talk to God. For me, I also have a passion for writing and I am most focused when I am able to write to God so that’s what I do. Maybe you want to type to God, or sing to God, or maybe even dance. Whatever God has gifted you with do that for his glory. Find a consistent pattern for alone time and do what you do without distractions.
  2. Escape if you need to– Sometimes getting alone means getting out of the house. If that is necessary then do it. I have spent plenty of time alone at a coffee shop. It took me a while to realize that it was okay to do this. I’m not abandoning my family by leaving for an hour every week I’m just rediscovering me. If you need to, find a babysitter to take the kids periodically so that you can make this time work. Make it a priority. Schedule it in your planner. Own this time for you! And you will thank yourself later.
  3. Exercise– Sometimes exercise is the best mental health practice one can partake in. Not only does exercise make us feel better, but it increases our energy for the day. If we find time to exercise we feel more accomplished and the to-do lists lose some of their control over us. Also, while you are exercising it is a great time to be in communication with God. I enjoy strength training and running. While doing these workouts I listen to uplifting music which point me toward my relationship with God.  Although my heart rate is speeding up my thoughts are slowing down. I find exercise to be a great medicine for both the soul and body.

How else can you make yourself your first priority?

The Ameri Brit Mom

Way: Five Minute Friday

Every Friday I like to join a band of inspired writers over at Five Minute Friday.com. There is a weekly link-up posted here with a prompt for a blog post. Click on the link to see what other members are writing. The goal is to write on the topic for an uninterrupted five minutes. This week the topic is way.

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Does anyone else feel like they are constantly in the way?

It’s an awkward feeling when you are trying to be helpful all the while your presence is a complicating factor. Maybe it’s the fact that I possess a bit of social anxiety. When I’m nervous I tend to talk. A lot. I will talk just to avoid silence and oftentimes that backfires. In an attempt to evade awkwardness I actually create it. There I am just in the way of things.

It’s a bit like my relationship with God.

So often I try to find my own way or “help God along” with things the way I think they ought to go. With my human efforts I work at solving problems all the while God is sitting back and watching as I step on His toes. So many times I’ve found myself doing the very things that God alone is meant to do. Nothing I could say or do can heal or produce the things of God.

Recently, someone I love dearly has experienced the pain of a broken relationship. They held onto something that wasn’t working and when things finally imploded it left them hurting and raw. I wished so badly that I could take that pain away. The only way I knew to do that was to offer advice. I texted them often and shared my own experiences. But one night as I prayed for that person I felt God nudging me to get out of the way.

I can picture Him watching me and saying, “Lauren, would you please get out of the way so I can heal this person? I applaud your motives, but this cannot be about you.”

I had to let go of my desire to fix everything myself and realize that I wasn’t equipped with the power to heal them. God alone has that level of might. Instead, my role was to pray for and encourage this person in their faith. God wanted me to continue to befriend this person, but instead of filling them with my wisdom He desired for me to get out of the way and just listen.

When people are hurting the best thing we can offer them is a listening ear. Sure, it feels good to be able to give out advice, but in the most vulnerable of moments God needs room to work on them. He desires for us to step back, listen, and pray. If I get out of the way I see God work through that act of obedience. He uses my presence not my words to minister to others.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Done: Five Minute Friday

I’m back at it!

Every Friday I like to join a band of inspired writers over at Five Minute Friday.com. There is a weekly link-up posted here with a prompt for a blog post. The goal is to write on the topic for an uninterrupted five minutes. This week the topic is done. Check out my break-up letter with Worry, a long-time companion and a disloyal friend of mine.

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Dear Worry,

I am so done with you. You’ve hung around too long battling my mind and injuring my soul. After the past six months I’ve realized that by letting you into my life I have only made things worse. When I thought you were the only thing I could control I clung to you like a cat on a limb. But you’ve let me down hard. The wounds barred into my skin threatening to scar.

You see, with every chance you had you inflicted fear. At times I was paralyzed and choosing a direction was impossible. In the thick of the battle, though, I heard the still, small voice of a God who never left me.

When darkness closed it’s grasp around my mind the light was never forsaken. When your weight sat upon my chest I was being held. When trouble came knocking and pain was agonizing there was a Healer in my midst.

Now I know that when I’m afraid you aren’t my only option.

There’s a God who is watching over me providing the way out. I don’t need to suffer any more. He is ready to offer me the peace I desperately need. His respite is mine for the taking.

So, Worry, this is my good-bye. We’ve grown rather close these past few months, but our relationship is an unhealthy one. It’s not me, it’s you. I’m calling it quits. This journey has been a lot of things, but most importantly it’s done!

The Ameri Brit Mom

A New Five Minute Friday: Future

I am very excited to announce a huge change in my Five Minute Friday community. Last week, a new site was launched- Five Minute Friday. The weekly link-up is still hosted by Kate Motaung, however, some of the changes to the site help with site navigation and make it easier to access tools and topics.

What is Five Minute Friday?

It is a link-up (which is equivalent to a Meet-and-Greet in the world of blogging.) Each week, the topic changes and participants are encouraged to take five minutes to write according to the prompt. Because you only have five minutes, posts are raw and unedited. Luckily, Five Minute Friday is a positive place and by joining the group you are giving yourself permission to step outside the confines of perfection. It’s a place to write from the heart and to be encouraged.

So here is my unedited post on this week’s topic, Future:

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The first week of June is always a busy one in our home.

On Wednesday, the school year came to a close. On Sunday, we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. Next week, I also turn another year older.

Many times it’s easy to get caught up in where we’ve been when we celebrate anniversaries and birthdays, but this year I find myself focusing on the forward motions of life. I’m dreaming about what is left to accomplish. I see the goals we’ve set for our family, and what once seemed so distant and far off is close enough to cross my vision. Exciting times are around the bend, and I am thankful for all God is doing to bless us as a family.

My heart beats with excitement when I think about the verse is 1 Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (2:9)

Those things that stir me most and cause anticipation for the future are just the beginnings of what God planned for me. I’m coming out of a season of pain, but I can now say in confidence that the future is full of bright things. The blessings that await each of us are deeper than what can be seen. How encouraging!

God is good!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Mom’s Group

For the most recent publication of my church magazine I wrote an article highlighting a Mom’s Group. Meeting this group of women encouraged me in my own walk. What started out as a writing assignment has become so much more.

Every other week these ladies meet together to discuss God’s Word and pray for one another. It is so empowering to be surrounded by other mothers who seek God’s direction in the same way that I do. Below is the article that appeared in the publication as well as a photo of the finished product with photo credits to Beth Simmons.

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Group Highlight-Crystal Beres’ Mom’s Group- By Lauren Sisley

Many of the cLife groups at Covenant are open to all types of people and from every point of life’s journey. One thing that makes Crystal Beres’ group different is that it is a cLife group exclusively for women. The group was founded on the principle that women need to band together and encourage one another. Currently, this cLife group is reading through Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson. This text helps to direct conversation about being a woman and living out that purpose with hope.

Christina Galvan is a young mother of two who has been encouraged by attending this group. “It’s easy to feel lonely and like no one shares your struggles as a mother, but when we meet I feel uplifted. The women’s group has impacted my life in a positive way and has connected me with strong and encouraging women I may not have met otherwise.”

Women who attend this group are mothers of babies, toddlers, and young adults. The group is also composed of both singles and married women. It is unique when women of these different distinctions gather because they serve as mentors and resources for each other.

“This women’s group quickly realized we needed to encourage each other in our marriages first before we focused on our kids. We know that sometimes our husbands get seconds when we have small children, but when we focus on our marriages God blesses the whole family.” Host, Tami Iguchi says of an important focus of the group.

Ali Spann has been attending the women’s group for several months and says her favorite part is, “how open and honest everyone is. I feel secure sharing things going on in my home and knowing I will be encouraged and not judged.”

After her first visit to the group, Jessica McMillan said the group was, “close knit, but willing to open up to visitors.”

The women of this group have come to value this time so much that they have  organized nights for their husbands to get together and meet in a similar format. cLife groups are designed to be places where we do life together so if you are a woman in need of a team to encourage you or lift you up in prayer, then check out this women’s group led by Crystal Beres. They meet every other Monday night at the home of Tami Iguchi.

Five Minute Friday: Empty

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Empty. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!…” Luke 24:1-6a

Imagine you were these women. You were still grieving a man who had suffered brutality at the hands of the law. He was beaten and scorned before the eyes of man. He was mocked and ridiculed. They looked on as He took his final breaths and pled with God to forgive those who had tortured Him.

He was one so many believed in and who gave them hope so days after his crucifixion these women decided to pay their respects.

But the tomb was empty.

The women had traveled expecting to see his defeated body, but instead they were met by angels. Their crushed spirits resurrected as they left to tell the others about this Good News. Jesus was alive!

Jesus overcame the grave. Death did not triumph. He arose undefeated. He had the last word.

As the plastic eggs and vinegar dye fill our homes this weekend take heart and remember that our Lord is victorious. When we are struggling in our own lives and feeling the weight of expectations, failure, fear, depression, and everything else that binds up our hearts and keeps us from joy remember that the One who left that tomb empty is alive in us today. We have His power to overcome.

The battle is already won!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Five Minute Friday: Slow

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Slow. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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If I had to label the past month of my life using a single adjective I would choose the word slow. Time seems to be moving at a snail’s pace this month and I feel like one of those pinballs in an arcade bouncing from one obstacle to the next.

It started with an illness the first week and from then on I’ve been slowly trying to get back into my regular rhythm. Once I felt like I had truly recovered from being sick I was thrust into a few more hazards in my path.

Helping a friend through a difficult time-

Someone I love facing the possibility of cancer-

Playing host to another friend in need-

The list keeps piling up.

Not only does slow describe the pace of this month, but it’s also something I need to focus on. I’m that spastic pinball right now going every which way at a ridiculous speed. Every few seconds I’m nailing a corner at top speed. The one thing I need in the midst of all these circumstances is rest. In order to find rest I must slow down.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I will only find true rest in God.

All these things I’m carrying on my back and trying to fix for myself are ultimately work for the Lord. It’s hard to let go and give God control of situations. I like to feel like I’m doing something to make things better all the while God is just waiting for me to take a seat and rest.

How is God leading you to slow down this week?

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Five Minute Friday: Control

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Control. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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I’m a bit of a control freak.

If you saw my classroom policies and my home routines you would understand. It isn’t cleanliness that gets me excited, but the desire to be organized and to administrate. It can get me into trouble sometimes. I say “yes” when I should probably say “no.” I hold myself to unattainable standards. It’s a weakness that needs dealt with every so often.

When not completing my to-do list ends in a meltdown (like earlier this week when I was too ill to go to work) I have to participate in reflection where I am reminded that being in control of everything is impossible. Perfection is a myth. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and live spontaneously (something my husband is way better at than I am.)

The drive to control everything is also contrary to my Christian beliefs. When the Bible says things like,”Cast all of your cares upon Him for he cares for you…” (1 Peter 5:7) I struggle to obey. It is my natural response to try to control problems on my own. But according to that verse in clinging to my control I’m showing disbelief that God cares enough about me to sustain me.

It takes an intentional moment of peace before God to surrender control. And then I have to continue to remind myself that it’s been given over to God.

Each and every day I strive to truly cast my cares upon God. I wrestle to give control over to God, but I know that in doing so my load is lightened and the need to control my life gives way to my need to obey.

The Ameri Brit Mom