The Fabric of Our Family
For many, the fabric of family has frayed. Like a well-worn sweater that catches a snag, family feels comfortably familiar for many, and yet for many, family is falling apart. So in order to make amends, we must tie up loose ends and stitch up torn seams. When we invite Christ to come and fix the fabric of family, like a solid thread, He weaves in and out, in and out, until the heart of family gets sewn so closely to the heart of God that this sturdy stitch makes the fabric of family durable once again.
Our own family has had its share of rips and snags over the years, but we continue to invite Christ to sew and stitch, making repairs where repairs are needed. A long time family friend and partner in ministry recently asked me how we have kept our marriage, and therefore our family, so strong.
Pause. Deep Breath. Take time to reflect. This is not a simple answer.
First, our family is based on a covenant relationship that we, a man and a woman, made before God till death do we part, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. This is our foundation from the beginning, built on Christ, rooted in love.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. -Ephesians 3:17
Once we started moving forward into ministry and parenthood, we followed this model: God first, spouse second, children third, ministry fourth. But sometimes this pattern gets shifted around and things become backwards. Then the stitch does not sew as well as it should, causing rips and need for repairs.
In Ephesians 5:33 we read, “Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
In order to repair the fabric of our family, we use a new pattern to replace the old by cutting cloth from a different set boundaries, then stitching love and respect together with a thread called Christ.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2
This summer, we will celebrate 15 years of marriage. In addition to patterning our relationship after a Biblical perspective, I want to share 15 ways we have made our 15 years of marriage fruitful:
1. We communicate with each other freely, openly, speaking the truth in love, mixed with grace.
2. We make time for each other daily whether over coffee in the morning, a phone call during the day, at the dinner table in the evening, or over pillow talk at night.
3. We are aware of each other’s love languages and we seek to speak each other’s language.
4. We travel together, experiencing new places, people, and adventures.
5. We make intimacy a priority, not an afterthought.
6. We make a big deal about birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. We celebrate each other!
7. We spend time going out to dinner or to the beach with other couples whose company we both enjoy.
8. We exercise together.
9. We serve together. Having a Hospitality Ministry in our home has been the best way to make serving others a priority.
10. We worship together at church.
11. We forgive each other.
12. We support each other’s dreams by seeking to affirm and nurture each other’s gifts.
13. We trust each other.
14. We date each other.
15. We love each other.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Boundaries with Kids
When my oldest daughter, Makenna was just turning two years old, I had the opportunity to attend a parenting seminar hosted by Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries with Kids (this book is on my list of must reads for parents, by the way). One major point he made that I still clearly remember was a cautionary statement to be aware of the norm for children. Sometimes our parenting routines can put us into a rut. We do things because that’s the way we’ve been doing them for a long time, or we do things because that’s the way our peers have been doing them. But what if that traps us into a (dare I say) bubble? Instead He encouraged us to be aware of the normal behavior or expectations for most children.
So for instance, Makenna is now eleven years old and I am now homeschooling her. It’s very appropriate for me as her mother to set boundaries for her within the parameters of a greater norm. Last school year, when Makenna was in 5th grade and still attending a public charter school, a large group of her friends and their moms went to see a Katie Perry concert. I personally like a couple of Katie’s songs, and I’ll let Makenna listen to songs like Firework and Roar, but as a whole we don’t listen to Katie’s music, which is a boundary we have set for our family. However, when I looked at the greater norm, I understood that it’s normal for Tweens to start attending concerts. So within weeks of Katie Perry’s concert, we went with family friends to a concert for Toby Mac, Jamie Grace, Mandisa, Colton Dixon, and others, called The Hits Deep Tour.
So instead of just saying, No, you can’t go to the Katy Perry concert, I was able to say, You can’t go to the Katie Perry concert, but you can go to the Toby Mac concert with a friend. We went, had an amazing time, and it was an experience we felt good about as a family.
Single Family, Seeking Community
Summer seems to slip away with each sunset, and the days fly by as this mom tries to seize them one by one. So I keep a pocket full of productive pastimes: playing card games, walking the dog, baking, going swimming, visiting grandparents. And every night the kids stall bedtime by reading books at their bedside.
I climb into bed, eventually, reminiscing about how sugar and spice and everything nice becomes more and more a reality when raising daughters. Each year just gets better and better. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s how all our relationships could be?
But no matter how many past times I manage to stuff in my pockets or cradle in my arms, I alone cannot satisfy our family’s craving for community. Kids search for it like ice cream on a hot summer’s day, while my husband and I look for it as well.
So that has me wondering, how do other families find community? Not the drop-your-kid-off-at-someone’s-house-kind, but the let’s-fire-up-the-grill-and-let-our-families-visit-kind.
I’m up for suggestions. If you have found genuine, authentic community for each member of your family, how did you do it? In the meantime, if I get something figured out, I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then…
More Blessed to Give
I earned a four year degree so I could help people. At first I thought I would spend most of my time in a classroom helping students read a story, see symbolism, or help them write their own stories and create their own symbolism. But I only actually spent four years behind a teacher’s desk. Still, considering my passion for all things written, it’s possible I could find myself in the classroom once again someday.
But in the meantime, I have found other ways to help people. For years I have worked in ministry, helping others understand the gospel and how to apply it to their own lives. Now the main part of my mission to help others means teaching my own children to love story, to love God’s story, and to discover who God created them to be. It’s a beautiful blend of mentoring, ministry, and motherhood. Certainly, I am open to opportunities to help, mentor, minister, or mother beyond the four walls of my own home. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to recieve. I must admit that my cup overflows most when I find myself in a place of serving or giving of my time, resources, energy, or talents.
Over the past week I have had the opportunity to help my family, specifically my mom and in some ways, my dad and sister. My mom had foot surgery two weeks ago, and has been trying to recover with an incision six inches long. Most times I am used to binding up the broken hearted, stich by stich, but this time, I have been helping to bind up the physically broken, day by day. My sister was able to drive sixteen hours round trip, after we will have driven twenty, so that her kids and my kids can play at Nana and Papa’s house while Papa and I help Nana to recover.
The blessings have been found in those moments when giggles come gushing from the hallway or smiles drip with ice cream mustaches. This time has been nothing short of memory-making, fun-finding, sleep-stopping days of summer. Do I feel exhuasted at times? Yes. But as my mom makes it another day into her recovery, or passes the time with her millionth game of Uno with any one of her grandchildren, or Papa takes us on yet another trip to the pool or the park, it all feels completely worth it.
Family Talent is about more than what you see behind a teacher’s desk, or a minister’s credentials or a camera’s lense. Family Talent is all about investing in the lives of others. My earliest mentor who initially helped me find my faith in Christ once said There are two things that are eternal: people and the Word of God, and I have spent my time seeking to flood my life with those two things ever since.
How do you prefer to spend your time?
“The cousins” on a scavenger hunt in nature, thanks to www.imom.com
I served on staff with a large Christian organization for about ten years up until just a couple of years ago. Upon leaving that organization, I fleshed out some of my feelings in a blog post because I felt it was important to let people know the condition of my heart at the time. God was doing a different work in me:
Recently, God released my heart to resign from ministry as a profession in order to remain in ministry as a lifestyle. So I am taking off my ministry mask to reveal a more realistic me. Now the truth can be told with each expression that crosses my face since I actually have a smile that not only looks less plastic, but also feels less perfect. So when ministry in real life gets messy, I can better reach the bruised and brokenhearted. After all, I cannot get deep in the dirt if my heart is clothed in khaki, but I can clothe my heart with the comfort of an old cut off pair of jeans and dig deeper for all of you to see all of me.
Serving in full time ministry is an honor. And even though I no longer serve in full time ministry through that same organization, my ministry still continues. At the time, my oldest daughter was beginning to approach her tween years- a delicate period when impressions are easily made, hearts are tender, and the mother daughter relationship morphs as it matures. I felt God leading me to shift my focus to ministering to my own children after spending a decade ministering to other people’s children. So instead of leading a Bible study for college students, I started leading a mother/daughter Bible study for our community. Instead of going on campus to meet with a college student, I was at home helping my language-artsy-kind-of-daughter with her math homework. Also, in the time that I have focused on my daughters, they have both sharpened their skills as swimmers, as well as in the sports of their choice: ballet for one, gymnastics for the other. They have pushed forward in a modeling and acting career and have a love for people. If you ask them today where they want to go to college, they’ll tell you Southeastern University. If you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, one will tell you a farmer and baker in Germany, while the other will tell you a fashion designer in France. Our family has yet to travel together internationally, but we have a trip in the works (Lord willing) next summer where my husband will serve as a Chaplain to athletes at the Pan Am games in Canada.
So ministry for me is moving forward. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to write, which beyond motherhood is my passion and calling. I enjoyed taking this past year to write devotionals for a major Christian publishing company and I hope I get invited to contribute to more projects beginning in the very near future. Ministry does not have to take place in the walls of a church. Ministry is not limited to an organization or institution that gives you certain credentials. Ministry means saying yes to what God has put on your heart, grounding it in his Word, the Bible, and staying sensitive to his Holy Spirit.
Is there a ministry God could be leading you to? Perhaps in the lives of your children or in the life of someone else’s child?
Flowers for Father’s Day
I was thinking of what I could give my husband this Father’s Day. He doesn’t need a new grill for cooking out, a wheelbarrow for tackling yard work, or a set a tools for putzing around the garage.
So I took some time to remember how, as their father, he was the first to welcome each of our daughters from the womb into the world. And I thought about how together we took a step forward in a direction marked parenthood on a path pretty smoothly paved by the generations of parents who walked before us. But with each passing day, we saw how our journey would become marked by footprints appearing uniquely as our own.
Sometimes we walked a path plagued by potholes, while other times, we walked along places where the potholes were patched, making the path seem smooth once again. Then the bends in the road revealed our God-given strengths to carry as torches lighting our way, while the turns in the road turned up our weaknesses for us to leave behind along the roadside, all the while asking our Heavenly Father which direction to take next.
When I take a moment to look back and see how far we have come, I remember how over a decade agao, we once stood empty handed, but open hearted. And now over a decade later, we stand holding hands with our hearts overflowing. This path marked parenting weaves in and out of sunny spots, moonlight paths, open spaces, and quietly curves into tomorrow, ever changing but always moving forward.
And I see how our daughters were born to blossom from the little seeds of joy they started out as along our parenting path, into the lovely little ladies our daughters have become. So however unconventional it may seem, I have decided not to give him a grill, a wheelbarrow, or tools, but to give him flowers for Father’s Day. Only, instead of picking them along this path we walk, I’ll present the flowers as the lovely little ladies our daughters have become.
To Be or Not To Be
A hot topic among mothers of children in the modeling and acting business is whether or not their children should appear in television shows or movies that are not suitable for children to watch. My personal policy is that if a show or film is not appropriate for my children to watch, then they should not be in it. I realize that this is a personal preference, and that others may not agree. I am okay with that. I think back to the time when Dakota Fanning appeared in a scene as a child actress in which she appeared to be raped. And even though she was only acting, I would not feel comfortable allowing my daughters to play that type of role. Just last week, my oldest daughter submitted a video audition for a wholesome film that I would feel most comfortable having her take part in.
So how do I determine what my kids watch or don’t watch, much less act in? I go to http://www.pluggedin.com
How about you? Where do you stand on this topic?
Slow Cooker Recipes for Busy Days
On days when we book a job or get sent on a casting, I sometimes have time to put together a meal in my slow cooker so that we return home to a hot meal after a long day. Here are some of my favorites I would like to share with you.
This Pot Roast recipe can be found at AllRecipes.com:
These Chicken recipes can be found at~
Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:
When I am in a hurry, I like to serve either one with instant rice, some rolls, and a salad kit. Like I said, If I have time, I head to the grocery store the night before and prep in the morning before heading out the door. It does require extra work on top of everything else we have to do to get ready, such as ironing clothes, or gathering headshots and homework, but it’s worth it if it saves our family a trip through the drive thru!
You’ll find us at Florida Virtual School
My New Year’s Resolution for 2014 was to stress less. Busyness had gradually overtaken our family’s lives. I scrambled to get as much done during the day as I could while my daughters were at school. Then at 2:15 every weekday afternoon I drove to my daughters’ school to wait in the pick up line for forty-five minutes only to rush home to regroup before heading off to swim team or ballet, then tackling up to three hours of homework. After we finished, we got ready to do it all over again the next day. In the meantime, I pursued our family’s modeling and acting career, and when we booked a job, we returned home to a heap of make up homework to make our busy routine even busier.
Then I woke up at 3:00 a.m. one morning in February only to go online searching for a solution. I have a friend who taught with Florida Virtual School Full Time Home Education ( www.flvsft.com ) so my first thought was to look there. I discovered that FLVS runs in semesters and the deadline to register for the spring semester was just weeks away. The next morning I made a coffee date with my husband and after talking it over we agreed together that FLVS could be a school that would better suit our family. Now, just about a month later, life seems simpler. It’s taken time to adjust, just as it would for any new adventure. But for the next modeling or acting job we book, I will be bringing a laptop and a few textbooks to do school work on set and stress less.
Popular Family Talent
Reality television has gained popularity over the past decade, paving the way for real people with real lives to entertain us. Now, in October 2013, I would be far removed from pop culture if I did not blog a post with the words Family Talent and Duck Dynasty in the same sentence. This family, also known as the Duck Dynasty, has a way of drawing us in with their rustic southern charm and wholesome family values. Whether Phil is teaching a lesson to his grandchildren about having patience by making homemade jelly, or Korie, Missy and Jessica are pulling off a long overdue wedding ceremony for Phil and Miss Kay, their southern charm and quirky antics capture our attention. I realize that southern hospitality may not be your cup of tea-it’s not always mine. But the way this family conducts itself is both fun and glorifying to God, which can either be contagious, or at least leave the viewer feeling curious.
Personally, I look forward to the final scene of each episode when Willie’s voiceover summarizes the life lessons learned for that week while the family sits around a large dinner table, ready to eat a home cooked meal. Then to add further to the kind of down-home nostalgia you can’t even find at Cracker Barrel, Phil prays in Jesus’ name. It’s a picture that warms the heart and speaks to the soul. For me, it’s also an encouragement to press on and continue nurturing my own family talent in a way that brings glory to God so that if pop culture comes knocking on our door some day, we will be ready. In Joshua 24:15 we read, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Thank you, Duck Dynasty Cast, for being a popular family talent on television today, but for also not wavering in your faith through the process!
Bringing Balance Home
I worked a modeling job yesterday morning and managed to make it home in time for lunch. Thankfully, my husband and I both have flexible schedules so we can tag team when it comes to taking care of the kids. But even when I take time away from my family, I like to give time back to my family in return. So I bring balance home with me, carrying in each hand both quantity and quality.
Yesterday, creativity came calling when I came home to the kids. My husband stepped out to face a full schedule while we stayed home, finding a simple theme to add structure to the rest of our day; we chose to celebrate Christmas in July! First, my daughters decorated the dining table with Christmas cloths and candles while I cooked brunch. Then we baked gingerbread cookies from scratch, and the girls went on to make a Christmas tree craft while I stayed busy in the kitchen cooking up a Christmas dinner. Once my husband came home we sat down for dinner together, a regular tradition our family upholds. Then, to top off our celebration, we all got into our pajamas and watched The Polar Express while drinking homemade hot chocolate.
From start to finish, my day certainly was full, but it was also very fulfilling. It’s days like these that make for good family bonding, so when we are out traveling to a job or going for an audition, our family unit feels strong.
How do you bring balance home after spending time away from the family at work on the set of a job?
Character Development Both On and Off Set
She carries confidence along with her comp card to each casting she attends. From what I can see, fear seems like a foreign feeling for her when it comes to facing the camera. And as her mother, I realize that with every success or failure she faces there comes another dynamic of the business. It’s one thing to memorize scripts or tap into emotions to develop a character for the camera, but it’s quite another to develop her character for life. It is my responsibility to help develop her character both on and off set. So I carve out time on my calendar to not only rehearse scripts, take her to church, school, ballet, swim team practice, and acting classes, but also to build into the girl she is today and the woman she will one day become. There are three times that I have found to work best for our schedule:
Daily: Bedtime is the best time for our family. Each night we read together, pray and give hugs and kisses. It’s a great way to end each day. We are currently going through the book, Battlefield of the Mind for Kids by Joyce Meyer.
Weekly: Breakfast or Brunch on a slow Saturday morning is another great time to build character. For times like this, I like to find something fun such as free printables at www.imom.com
Monthly: I try to spend one on one time with each of my daughters. This is a great time to talk about anything they may be dealing with personally. But to add some fun to our time together, I like to use a book such as American Girl’s Just Mom and Me (or Just Dad and Me for when my husband spends time with each of them).
Building skills that could perhaps one day land her a role on the silver screen is important, but it is also important to build those skills that will last a lifetime. I wrote a blog post for both my daughters at http://leahaspen.blogspot.com/2009/11/philippians-13-6.html that captures my heart for character development both on and off set:
I see you making your way; a woman-to-be wrapped up in the heart of a girl; toting dreams around in your purse while wearing your heart on your sleeve. I wonder who you will grow up to be? A wife, a mother, a daughter-in-law? A doctor or a missionary or even a rock star? And still my heart overflows with thankfulness for who you are today.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:3-6