I Lost My Voice…the Week of the Rachael Ray Show

Rachael Ray Show

At the ripe age of 5, my sweet savior Jesus saved my soul and stirred it.  As my mom and dad and Sunday School teachers taught me Bible stories – I fell head over heels in love with my Jesus and by junior high – I was sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen.

In high school my mom gave me a book by Elisabeth Elliot.  She was a missionary whose husband died at the hands of those they served.  Her lack of fear, love for the murderers and strong faith, inspired me to go to Bible college.

So off to the Moody Bible Institute I went and there a dream came true. I met my hero Elisabeth Elliot.  She came to my dorm room floor and spoke. I’ll never forget the verse she shared because it was the first time I  had ever heard it:

Jeremiah 45:5:  ”Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!”

This would be an important lesson to tuck into my heart as I never foresaw the ministry plans God had for me.

So after graduating college and marrying, I began leading women’s Bible studies, accountability groups, Titus 2 Workshops and mentoring ministries.  And then in January 2008, God did something new in my life.

I now had children and felt like I was overloaded with real life ministry…I had discovered these things called blogs but I was fearful. I remembered Jeremiah 45:5, and fought the idea.  A blog seemed SO self-promoting.  A few days later we would have communion at church where during prayer, I sensed God moving me towards greater faith.

From that moment forward I have never looked back.  The following August my blog – Women Living Well – popped out into the blogosphere  and for a year and half straight I blogged 5 days a week encouraging women to find joy in God, your man, your kids and your home.

And then it came, an email from the producers of the Rachael Ray Show.  I had not pursued this and my blog was quite small at the time but I believe God was in it.  The producers asked me if I would come on the show and share about my marriage. I was fearful. What if I go on this show and they mock me or ask me to debate a woman who disagrees with me –  on national television!?! Ugh!

So I wrestled with my decision.  And it was that day – I LOST my voice!  This was not the first time I had lost my voice – actually losing my voice has been a regular occurrence in my life since I was about 10.  When I get a cold – it goes straight to my throat and voice.  And so about once a year, I lose my voice.  When I say lose it – I mean gone – not a squeak comes out. I am silent for about 5 days.

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing I love to do – speak – is the very area physically I am weak.  I have over 1.1 million views of my videos on youtube.  I want to be a mouthpiece for God –but he has humbled me and kept me on my knees dependent on him to give me –a voice.

And on this day back in 2009, I begged God to give me back my voice so I could go on the Rachael Ray Show. After a lot of hot tea and cough drops, a camera crew showed up at my home to record us for 8 hours and then we boarded a plane and off to New York City my husband and I flew.

The morning of the taping, Keith and I prayed in the hotel room together, surrendering ourselves to God allowing him to do as he pleased.  Then we were whisked away to the studio for hair, make-up, green room prepping and in walked Rachael Ray – then lights, camera, action.  It happened fast. In a blink of an eye the taping was done.  We were ushered out of the studio within 10 minutes of the taping and there we stood on the New York City streets a little overwhelmed.  It was a big experience but like a vapor – it was over –and I was reminded of Jeremiah 45:5.

A few days later the show aired (you can see the video here) and the internet swirled with people’s opinions of our marriage.  The words stung – “airhead, doormat, stepford wife.”

“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!” Jeremiah 45:5

Elisabeth Elliot once said, “God needs those who are ready to lay down their lives to lead others into a true soldiership and true following of the crucified.”

I didn’t go to the Auca Indians where my husband was murdered –I went to New York City on the Rachael Ray Show –I get it.  I really do.  I’m a wimp! Lol!!!

But I learned an important lesson early on in my blogging years –if I plan to write on faith, I must be prepared for insults and looking like a fool at times.  But what a joy it is to HAVE a voice!

You have a voice too!  We each have our own sphere of influence where God is asking us to be brave and speak truth. It certainly won’t bring us greatness in the world’s eyes – but consider – God doesn’t love us because we are something great – He loves us because we are His.

Be fearless.  Use your voice.

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.

Walk with the King,

Courtney, WomenLivingWell.org

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

stories made it possible

The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.

I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up homeschooled until the age of 9, with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.

And Mum, she taught me the Queen’s language. A language lost to this texting generation. She taught me when to use “which” and when to use “that”; she saluted the apostrophe and shuddered when it was put in the wrong place. She set every word reverently in its place, in a sentence, and taught me the feel of a pen between my fingers.

I learned the art of penmanship, but not only that—I learned what it means to know a language inside and out, backwards and front, and to hold it in awe.

Throughout high school Mum pulled me out of the English classes and taught me herself because she knew what I did not: that with the age of computers we’d lose the craft of a noble speech. We’d add slang and acronyms would become actual words and kids would trade the romance of a hand-written letter for the convenience of a text message.

my goal since those days

Not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.

It pulls you deep, this literature, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.

I will never understand the intrigue of a book-less library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.

And my goal since those days has been to write a story that draws people in so they forget where they are, so they too befriend the people they are reading about, so they too, don’t have to be lonely, anymore.

 

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atlas-girl

Friends? I’ve written a story (a memoir) and it’s releasing next month.

It’s called Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (www.atlasgirlbook.com)—and all proceeds are going towards a non-profit which TBM contributor Joy Forney and I have founded in the slums of Uganda: The Lulu Tree ~ “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”

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Pre-order your copy of Atlas Girl HERE and receive a FREE e-book on How to Write Inspirational Memoir!

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This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Kids Don’t Need Pinterest Perfect

Kids Don't Need Pinterest PerfectWe can learn a lot from the Internet, can’t we? Chances are very high that you’re reading this article right now via the Internet—email, social media, a blog.

As women, we are surrounded by voices in this new age of “information.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched Google for “how long does it take to boil an egg” and “what to do for a bee sting.” (I know I should know how long to boil an egg. But for some reason, I almost always have look it up.) Don’t judge. I grew up on cereal.

Truly, having access to life online has changed our culture. For the most part, I love it. It’s opened up a world to us that was much harder to reach in 1976. I remember a time when encyclopedia salesmen traveled door to door selling books. I believe I bought a set for my own kids in the early 90’s! The Internet has made that sort of thing obsolete, because we’re getting our “information” from a much broader set of voices now—a new platform of voices, previously unheard.

Today, we can hear from virtually anyone who wants to be heard: from the mini-van mama to the movie star mom and every mom in-between. Most moms want to do the best thing for their kids—and that’s great—but in recent years, I’ve been seeing a new generation of moms who are comparing themselves to a mom who doesn’t exist— the mom who seems to have it all together. It’s easy to open up Facebook or Pinterest and see images of perfect days and fabulous dinners that are airbrushed (literally!) to perfection.

We like to put our best picture forward—but what message are we sending to our kids with all this perfectionism? When we begin to think that everyday life is supposed to be like that, guess what? Our kids miss out on the messy but good stuff of life. I’ve struggled in recent years as a busy mom of two grown daughters and five children still at home to find balance between that “ideal” mom and being a mom who isn’t afraid to let good things go for better things.

To my kids, at least, “better” is not Pinterest perfect. It’s just access to their mom.

This summer, as you get ready to enjoy time off from school with your children, keep in mind that your kids need to see you. They need to interact with you. They don’t want to see your face buried in a computer screen or a smart phone every spare minute.  It’s freeing, really, to do the most important thing first. And do you know what that is? It’s your family. You see, kids don’t need a Pinterest Perfect Mom. They need a mom who will be present with them.

They don’t care if you can braid their hair into the Eiffel tower, or if you have “fans” on Facebook. They want you to pay attention to them. In the end, it will be the simple things that will make the biggest impression on your children. I didn’t have a perfect childhood, but when I think back, the things I love to remember were the days mom took us to the lake for the day. I remember she made terrible fudge but she let me do it with her. I remember the totally NOT perfect pillow case she embroidered with me and the summer days we ate Cheerio’s for dinner after sliding down a sheet of plastic in our back yard for hours on end. I remember climbing the walnut tree with my grandma (yes, my grandma) and the no-bake oatmeal “fudges” mom brought out while we sat in that tree.

It wasn’t remotely worthy of “Pinning” and it’s likely that it would not have caught anyone’s eye, but it caught my heart. I don’t think kids today are much different.

I’m still a fan of Pinterest, but I’m learning to use it responsibly.  Kids don’t need perfection, they need permission to be kids—and moms set the tone for childhood memories.

Enjoy your kids this summer! The memories you make may never be worthy of a pin but they will make the biggest impression where it counts the most: on the hearts of your kids.

Blessings,
Heidi St. John, The Busy Mom

Kids and Technology (Finding the Balance)

Kids and Technology

Can I play Minecraft on the ipad?

Lydia wants to know if she can do Starfall on your computer?
Can we play Wii for 15 min.?
Can I text Anna back because she asked a question?
After dinner can we watch a show tonight?
David asked if I can follow him on Instagram?

My nightmare.
Well, one of them anyway.

There are times when I’d love to just get rid of it all.
There’s a reason I returned the iphone my husband bought me a couple of years ago.
I have a definite love-hate-relationship with technology and all things screen-ish.
And yes, I get the irony of sharing this in a post as I type away staring at a screen.
My tendency would be to bury my head in the sand and just wish it’d all go away.

But—there has to be a balance—right?
And that’s part of our job—
To help our children find the balance and to help them learn how to keep it,
To help them learn to use technology and all things media for the glory of God.

First We Must Look at Avoiding the Dangers and Negative Impacts of Technology:

1) Overuse:
There’s a definite tendency for overuse. And that’s a real possibility for all of us. Screen attachment can become a borderline addiction (or real for some) and we must set limits when it comes to using technology and screen time.  The balance will be different for every family and should be age appropriate.

Exceptions are made as needed, but in general, as a family, we have some guidelines that have eliminated the need for constant decision making about usage.  When it comes to television, we watch a weekly show together on Thursday nights and then after evening chores are complete, our crew is allowed to watch something for half an hour while we are waiting for dad to get home (for us that is 6 to 6:30). Unless it’s a special occasion– online games or Wii games are reserved for the weekends and this has eliminated the requests for permission that were driving me bonkers.  For now, we also have decided that devices will not travel with the kids to most social functions (church, Bible study, friends’ houses etc.).

I’m not at all suggesting this is what every family should do, but the point is to have an actual usage plan.

2) Safety:
Dangers lurk on every corner when it comes to technology and this is an important discussion to have with our children.  As parents we need to explain why it’s important to never share personal information or open emails/photos from strangers and why downloads need to have approval.

There is wisdom in keeping computers and devices centrally located and for putting safeguards in place to protect our children.  Pornography is just one unintentional click away.  We must make safety a priority.
This recent article has excellent suggestions specific to creating a porn-free family plan.

In our home, our kids’ profiles must be kept private and they are not allowed to accept friend requests from people they don’t know.  And until they are a bit older and wiser, we’ve asked them not to search and click on unknown sites without our permission.  A central family docking station, ensures that all devices are accounted for.  Open communication is huge when it comes to safety…our children need to feel comfortable coming to us if something negative happens online whether intentional or unintentional.

3) Costly Words:
Words have the ability to cause great damage and it’s so easy to quickly make a comment online without realizing the hurtful impact.  It is important to explain that a text, email, comment, or post is often irretrievable and that “when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).  As a family, studying James is a great place to start when discussing how death and life are in the power of the tongue.

4) Missed Opportunities:
The choice to engage in screen time is also a choice to not do something else. Technology often replaces good conversation and face to face relationship building. It can isolate family members from one another and it can lead to a loss of other interests.  When we start noticing that our children are choosing screen time regularly over other activities, that’s usually when we implement a technology Sabbath.

5) Lack of Courtesy:
It’s also important to stress courtesy when it comes to all things screen.  And sometimes it’s as simple as the basics– when you are in the company of someone else, it’s unkind to be glued to your phone.  If there’s any opportunity for conversation, it’s rude to not make eye contact and engage.  These are words we must preach to ourselves as well.

docking station

Then We Must Encourage the Positive Aspects of Technology:

1) Building relationships and friendships:
Technology creates a wonderful opportunity for building connections and encouraging others.  If we can help our children view it in this light, technology can be a blessing in their lives and in the lives of others.  We want to help them consider:  Who can I encourage with my comments?  What friendships can I strengthen by online connections?  What family members or friends can I reach out to?

2) Developing Skills/Creativity:
Creativity is limitless when it comes to technology and it’s important to encourage our children to develop skills in this area.  Many excellent typing, programming, and coding programs are available.  Our boys enjoy stop motion and creating videos.  All of our children enjoy photography.  These are skills and interests that God can use in their lives and we want to encourage their curiosity and delight in these areas.

3) Sharing the Gospel:
Technology offers incredible opportunities for sharing about Jesus’ rescue mission to save us, bring us forgivingness and how He made a way for us to live in deep, real relationship with God.  We want our children to approach technology with a heart to “(make) the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16).

4) Keeping us in the tension:
It might be easier to just do away with it all, but instead we have to listen for God’s whisper that we may be out-of-balance or over-balanced or missing– Balance.

It might be simpler if God just gave us Commandment #11– Do not use Facebook.
But instead, He gives us a relationship where we must come to Him regularly, willing to lay it all, all the techno-everything-options, at His disposalTechnology and all things “screen” create this opportunity for our children as well.

I am sure there are many other positives and negatives that I haven’t considered…
And I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions below in the comments.

For now though, I’ll just admit that I did eventually get a smartphone.
Smile.
And truthfully, I use it, enjoy it, and find it very helpful.
But it’s a constant battle to keep the balance.

And it’s in that place of tension that I want our children to stay…
Where they are constantly asking–

How can I use this _________ (insert your device of choice) to bring glory to God?

Our God is a God who redeems.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” ~Psalm 24:1

With Love,
Kara @ The Chuppies

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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