Tag Archives: christian living

Rest for your soles, rest for your soul.

15 Sep
Toes at rest after a polished year and a half.

I hardly recognize that foot. No Polish! First time in 18 months! But the nail beds needed a break. They were showing signs of underlying damage — spots, ridges, scratches. I’ve been aware of that troubling development for the past few months. But, it’s summer in So Cal where, for better or worse, everybody sees everybody’s feet. I just set aside the issue and polished away. There were sandals to be worn, people — gotta put my best foot forward!

Ever done that in life? Ignored some cautionary signs — of fatigue, of exhaustion, of fragility, or just plain not feeling well — in order to do what needs to be done? I certainly have. There’s definitely merit in rising to the occasion, donning the best face, and focusing on the positive so we can serve, minister, bless (or just get through the day!) In defense of pressing on, honestly, if we let every fear or worry trip us up the past year and a half, we would have done nothing at all (except, maybe, our nails!) 

BUT, putting on that “everything is awesome” facade so much that we continually overlook the “cracks” can break us. Without the occasional step back, even those things we love to do, the things that make us feel alive and in control and accomplished and allow us to bless others, when done while ignoring underlying troubles, can bring us down. How do the cracks show up for you? For me, signs that trouble is afoot (ahem) include grumbling internally when I serve. A bitterness when I step to the front “yet again” (that’s bitter me talking) to lead, or host or organize. When I’m short-tempered, resentful, seeking to numb out….Did I miss any of your go-tos?

So, what are we to do? It’s mid-September, for goodness’ sake! Agreed, not exactly known for restfulness, the start of fall can be busy. But what if the cracks are already starting to form? Where will you be come Thanksgiving? Christmas?

It doesn’t even have to be an acetone-fueled hard stop. Perhaps a step back from going above and beyond (store-bought baked goods…a house that’s not perfectly decorated or clean…a quiet moment with the Lord even though the to-do list is looming large…a coffee break with a friend where you can bare your soul (if not your soles)…an afternoon off of work to spend quietly and reflectively. Maybe, for you, just a trip to the nail salon. 

Even the Triune God takes breaks — both in Heaven and on Earth — not out of need, but out of wisdom. (See God’s calendar for the seventh day.) So us mortals? Yeah, even the most can-do spirit needs room to say, “Today, I can’t.” A moment, or a day, or a season, to rest. Simplify. Strip down the veneer. Replenish. Breathe. And then come back stronger, with a facade that is matched by the inner beauty and high polish of a well-rested soul.

Mary & Martha Revisited: It’s Attitude, Sister.

13 Dec

It’s not how much you have to do, it’s how you feel about it doing it.

(Note: Wow – one MOPS meeting results in three blog posts! What a morning it was! First, Potluck; then My Fave  Five, and now, Mary & Martha. Yahoo!)

I just completed one of the most schedule-packed, busy, speaking-writing,-cooking-socializing 9-day chunks of time in my adult life. The culmination event was leading the devotional and discussion time at the Mothers of Preschoolers group at my church Monday morning. Not surprisingly, given my audience of busy young moms and my recent schedule, I chose a verse that is often studied this time of year — Jesus at the Home of Mary & Martha: Luke 10:38-41. Check it out:

“38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

In my many years of studying this passage, the revelations just keep on coming.

In my early days of reading the Bible, I marveled: This is in the Bible? It seems like such a mundane, slice of life passage. But Jesus cares about the details of life! I have, at various times, identified (silently!) with Martha – Seriously, can’t somebody help me around here? And at other times, when my kids were little and the demands on my time precluded periods of “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” I yearned to be Mary: Please leave me alone and let me just sit quietly!

This year, however, as I revisited this passage with the intent of sharing admonitions against over-committing, and tips for doing what’s really important and lasting during the Christmas season, I had a new reckoning.

It’s not that Martha took on too much, per se. It’s how she felt about her decision – worried and upset. It’s attitude, sister.

After the 9 days of  crazy scheduling I just had – that included producing and co-MCing a women’s event at church, coordinating food for a memorial service at the high school (and I was a speaker there too), baking for a cooking exchange and a care package for my finals-burdened, out-of-state college student, three dinners out, cooking dinner at home every other night for my hubby and my busy 16-year old, hosting three meetings at my house (with food and bev, naturally), coordinating with the dryer repair man, doing announcements at church, going to the holiday fireworks show in our town, and then, speaking at the MOPS group on day nine, you might think I was being Martha – overscheduled and bitter about having to do so much.

But unlike many of those busy times in my adult life when I have over-committed and grumbled, this was different. I loved every minute of it! I mean, I was seriously joyful!

What was the difference this time? Well, the only explanation is: God.

As I approached this season – which I knew would be busy, even without foreknowledge about the death of our beloved Track Coach and his Memorial Service – I was praying fiercely and obediently. And I asked others, whom I knew would really do it, to pray for me. Before accepting responsibilities or offering to help others, I laid my ideas before God and asked Him – Should I? I didn’t respond to any requests immediately. I let the decision marinate in prayer.

Did I hear a voice? Well, that’d be weird! But “hearing” isn’t necessary when all the answers I need are in the Bible. This verse, which I had memorized long before, resonated with me as I prayed and sat quietly, “listening:”

“Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Colossians 3:23

So, I felt God was saying – Hey, Cindy, it’s really up to you if you decide to do this stuff. But if you do, remember that you are doing it for me, you are representing me, so don’t go all Martha on me. If you decide to do more than that “one thing that is needed,” don’t be worrying and upset. And definitely don’t try to pass the buck to someone who has chosen differently. No guilt trips, girl.

So, with God’s blessing, I discussed the scheduling with my wonderful, patient, also-busy husband, and we figured it out. And then, there was the matter of a couple of giant and key naps on last Sunday afternoon and this past Saturday afternoon. Those kind where you wake up and think it’s a different day! So awesome!

So, as you go forward with your to-dos and your plans, and all those “shoulds” that you have on your calendar, it’s probably too late to decide whether or not you can get out of them. But it’s never too late to lift up your attitude for a recalibration. Remember who the Christmas season is really for, and ask Him to help you get to a place where you can joyfully serve, work, cook, clean, shop, host, whatever, as though He were going to be right there with you. Because, ya know, He is.

Now, as the real “meat” of my Christmas season looms (and yes, it’s Dec 13 and I have only bought 3 gifts), my challenge will be to maintain my joy, my daily conversation with God, and the act of laying my schedule out for prayer and approval.

Stuff to think about while you’re in line at Costco…or on the freeway….or trying to fall asleep:

When have you missed a moment because you were more Martha than Mary – grumbling about all you perceive you must do instead of enjoying it?

In what areas do you struggle for perfection – often hampering your own – and others’– joy?

What can you do this Christmas to be more “sit at the feet of Jesus and enjoy the moment” rather than “Hey, why isn’t anyone helping me do all this crazy stuff I think I need to do?”

Identify what you can let go of, and let go. Identify the “have-to’s” and work to change your attitude about them.

And pray!

“Mary” Christmas!

Pray, Pray, so you won’t be so Cra’y Cra’y!

11 Jan



This is an excerpt from one of my “McTopics” presentations for the Mothers Of Preschoolers group I mentor.


Prayer Life – if Jesus made it a priority – and He’s Jesus! – then we should too! But in the hectic lives of moms with young kids, it can be challenging to fit it in. I know – I was there, and to prove it with apologies to Laura Numeroff (author of the “If You Give a Mouse…” books), please enjoy:

If you give a mommy a free hour …..by Cindy McMahon

If you give a mommy a free hour of quiet time to spend in prayer and meditation while her baby naps, she’s going to need a hot cup of coffee to go with it.

When she goes to get her favorite coffee cup, she notices that she never started the dishwasher. While rinsing out her cup, she sees that there are some additional empty spaces in the dishwasher, so she tours the house, gathering up a few dirty dishes to fill the dishwasher.

While her coffee is brewing, she gets a text from her best friend, who wants to know if she’ll be able have a playdate at the park later in the week. She opens up her laptop to check her online calendar, and realizes that she never scheduled her dental checkup – three months late! Quickly, she looks up her dentist’s phone number, whose name is alphabetically next to her in-laws’ and she realizes that she never got around to ordering her mother-in-law’s birthday gift from Amazon.com.

She goes online and sees that she has 12 notifications on Facebook and 32 unread emails. As she checks those notifications (mostly on a cute pic she uploaded of her sleeping angel) , she sees that someone has shared a Pinterest pin with her.

Ooooh – it’s a darling craft she wants to do with her older kids. But she’ll need clothespins. She goes into the laundry room to see how many clothespins she has, and realizes that she never put the last load of clothes (from two days ago) into the dryer. She notices they smell kind of funky, and so she decides to run them again with a little baking soda to refresh them.

Heading back into the kitchen to get the baking soda, she smells her coffee. She tries to pour it without putting down the baking soda, and drops the baking soda, which was wide open, onto the kitchen floor. She puts down the coffee pot and sweeps up the spill – and the rest of the kitchen, for good measure.

Finally, she fills her favorite mug and carries it over to her cozy spot on the couch, where her prayer list and Bible, open to Proverbs 31, is waiting. As she sits down, she wonders if she’ll be able to stay awake if she closes her eyes in prayer. Just as she does, she hears crying on the baby monitor, looks at her watch and realizes that naptime is over.

If you give a mommy a cup of coffee, she’s going to need a free hour of prayer time to go with it.

Have you been there? Me too! With so much to be done – both the “have to do’s” and the “want to do’s” – it is challenging to make the time to just sit and spend time with God. But as I’ve found over the years, it is such a key component of living a Spirit-filled, “slow-to-anger,” wise-decision-making kind of life. Jesus, at the height of his ministry when he was in high demand and being sought after by thousands, made solitary prayer a priority.  That’s humbling, really, because as busy as I am, my schedule is certainly not as full as his! And yet, he stole away for quiet time with God. Obviously, we need to as well!

Get started:

1. If you haven’t been regularly spending time in prayer, start small – how about 5 or 10 minutes? Can you wake up a bit earlier? Lock yourself in the bathroom? The car?)

2. Grab a pen & paper: As you sit quietly, plenty of forgotten tasks will flood your mind. Write them down, and get back to prayer (don’t go off and do them!)

3. Cellphone goes to another room.

4. Read the Bible: Psalms are my favorites – reminders of how amazing God has been through the ages – and certainly, that my situation isn’t as bad as David’s was at times! And, it helps to settle me in. You can even print a Psalm out from a Bible website like BibleGateway.com the night before.

5. Prayer routine: I’ve followed the *Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch) fours steps of prayer for the last 10 years and so I begin with praise for God, then I move into a moment or two (or more sometimes!) of quiet confession. Next comes a period of thanking God for what he’s done or answers to prayer that I’ve received. Then, finally, I begin asking God for his help in certain areas. *momsinprayer.org

Benefits: I love the phrase Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us. He wants to hear from us (what parent doesn’t want to hear from their kid?) But our time with Him makes us better folk.

Spirit Girl: What I’ve experienced in the days when I begin with prayer (and I confess this is not every single day – but I try!) is a wiser, more calm approach to everything. From long lines in the market to inconsiderate drivers, broken glass to sass from my kids, my reactions are more in the *Fruit of the Spirit category than the “react now, regret it later” mode, which seems to be my default. The new jar of salsa still breaks and splatters when it hits the kitchen floor, and people still don’t understand what a four-way-stop means (that all four cars have to stop in order for it to work!!), but that stuff bothers me less. I have even been known to shrug and laugh about it.

Wise-time management: Regular prayer has me in the habit of reflecting upon any day’s to-do list and figuring out which things are important, and which things can wait (or go away, or be delegated – that’s my favorite!). Lots of paring down this way – there may even be time for a cup of coffee later!

Now that quiet time with God has become more the norm than the exception, when I do miss that morning window, I will regroup when I remember and take a moment right then to check in with The Creator. Usually that realization hits after I’ve made an error in judgment (did I really need to walk up and down every aisle at Costco, picking up several impulse items, just because I was there to save $12 on trash compactor bags?) or meted out harsh words for someone I love. Sigh. It’s a process folks.

Finally: I think of it like this: Going through my day without prayer is like going to the supermarket without a list. I might get what I need, but more than likely, I will forget something important and come home with several things that I don’t need and won’t use.

Happy New Year to you – enjoy the fresh start!

*Fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5:22-23

New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Sit Down For Dinner, folks!

11 Oct

McFamily at JRDN in Pacific Beach (San Diego)

A quick iPhone pic taken by Rachel before a fancy dinner out.

Bite-sized Portions for My Maidens

McTopics: Family Meal Time – You can do it!

My 15-year-old son recently wrote an essay about the positive influences that have shaped his life. The assignment required that he write a paragraph each about a significant person, place and event/experience.

He asked me to proofread it (“for spelling only,” he reminded me, of former editor of red-pen fame).

I was blessed to the point of tears. He chose to write about his brother, (a freshman in college this year) as his “Who;” playing hockey and attending an annual week-long Christian summer camp as his experiences; and our dining room table as The Place. It was the kind of essay that makes you so proud you want to tell everyone about it (and I guess that’s what I’m doing, right?).

Then, a week after the heart-swelling essay, a study from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse concluded that teens who regularly eat with the family are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to fare better in the adolescent years and beyond. An excerpt from the report:

“This year’s study reinforces the importance of frequent family dinners,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “Ninety percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18. Parental engagement in children’s lives is key to raising healthy, drug-free kids and one of the simplest acts of parental engagement is sitting down to the family dinner. Seventeen years of surveying teens has taught us that the more often children have dinner with their families the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.”

For the full report:

There are many times in the parenting journey where we wonder if the things we do make a difference. It seems that the family dinners have.

In our community, we are among a large percentage of people who are involved, educated and dedicated to raising their children to be successful. There’s nothing unique about that. Apparently, however, our regular old family meals together are one of the things that do set us apart from about half of the other families in our country. Life is busy, kids and parents are going in several directions, and eating is often done alone, in front of the TV, in the car or with teen friends rather than family members.

Family dinner is sacred in our house. We are not legalistic about it, but we are dedicated to making it happen on a regular basis.

We both grew up having family dinners, even if they weren’t what you might imagine. My husband’s family rarely ate before 8 pm and those dinners were spirited. My dad worked for a professional baseball team, so sometimes our “family dinner” consisted of him coming down from the Press Box to our seats behind the visiting dugout, enjoying a hot dog or a hot chocolate, and asking us about our day, schoolwork, etc. Thus, it’s probably not surprising that we wanted to make this a goal also.

Family of Two: Our family meal tradition was purposeful. And it wasn’t always easy. But from the beginning, even when it was just the two of us, both working full time, we’d sit down to eat at our dining room table – foregoing the TV trays we received as a wedding gift (although those were great for football-watching parties!) TV was off. Phone went to the machine.

Party of 3 and then 4: Once the kiddos arrived, we still made the effort, although sometimes it would mean that we’d pull the baby swing up to the table so bambino could be a part of the dinner, even if it meant constant winding that swing to keep said infant from getting fussy.

Somewhere down the line, when both the boys were of talking age, we added in the conversation starter, “What was the best part of your day?” and made our way around the table, including any guests in our query as well.

These days, we rarely even prompt doing the “best part” query – the conversation just seems to flow around so that everyone reports something significant from the day – be it hilarious, bizarre, frustrating or amazing. The boys linger at the table, dipping community carrot sticks in community Ranch long after the main meal is done. As they’ve gotten older, the conversation occasionally gets a little too “salty,” and so we’ve added the admonition: Civility! Lots of laughs and hilarity ensue, and the boys have been known to arrange their evening plans around dinner so as not to miss it.

But we didn’t get here easily. Sometimes the family dinner (we aim for Sunday-Thursday at home and one family dinner out on the weekend) just isn’t doable because of extra-curriculars, work, meetings, etc. But that’s the exception, rather than the norm. If we have to eat at 5:30 to make it work, so be it. If we have to push it til 8, we’ll do a heavy after-school snack. If one of us (mom or dad) can’t be there, the other makes the dinner sit-down happen. Even if it ends up being a meal out – fancy restaurant or fast food – we still eat it together and we talk to each other. One spring, we had baseball games almost every night of the week between the two boys. The snack stand diet put a temporary kibosh on the home dinners. But the season passed, and we got back to it.

A couple of times last year, when we’d all be going out on a Friday night – the boys to a football game or social event and my husband and I to a movie or dinner – we’d have a family Happy Hour, with appetizers, lemonade slushies for the boys and cocktails for the grownups. And we’d talk about the week behind and the weekend ahead.

A friend once commented (before she knew us well) that it seemed like we really enjoyed our teens. She was right. We really know them, know what’s going on in their lives and the lives of their friends, and they ours.  And maybe that stems from these dinners.

So, if you’re not regularly doing a family meal together, here are a few tips if you would like help starting up your own Family Meal Tradition:

Any Meal Time Will Do: Dinnertime has worked for us in general because my husband’s office is nearby and he sets his own schedule, but I know sometimes career, commutes and kids’ ages preclude delaying dinner until a working parent gets home. There’s always breakfast, or even the option of sitting at the table with the late-arriving family member and chatting while they eat. And remember, as kids get older, they can stay up a bit later, so just because it’s not dinner now, someday, it might be. You can also consider setting up a video chat session for a portion of the dinner so that the missing parent can hear about the family’s day. And there’s always the Milk and Cookies sit down if your kids can handle the sugar and later bedtime.

Any loving adult will do: Whether you are a single-parent home, a sometimes-single-parent home (spouse traveling a lot), a home with grandparents, aunt, uncles — the key is that the family meal includes a loving, caring adult family member who can steer the conversation, listen to the kids, and provide the sympathetic ear. Don’t cancel the meal because there are just two of you!

Any Food Will Do: Extravagant or simple, organic or fast food, the purpose of this sit-down is family connection.  It doesn’t matter who made it or where you eat it, as long as everyone can sit down at the same time and enjoy it, and each other, in community.

No Media: Turn off the TV and either turn off or agree to ignore all phones. Once in awhile we’ll break this rule if there’s a big playoff game on TV – but we still pause it while we pray together and for the first 10 minutes or so of dinner, just to check in with each other. Often there’s the temptation to look something up online or on the iPhone when the discussion hits a question (Sometimes we resist the urge, but sometimes we don’t) We’ve often said we need to make a list of things to look up later!

Conversation Starters: As I mentioned, we always did “best part of the day” highlights, but I know some people do best and worst, Roses and Thorns recaps. Here’s my caution: if you are content to “just listen” to the worst part, without turning it in to an intervention where everyone tells the person what they should have done, go for it. But along with “worst parts,” are often parenting questions, admonitions, and accusations. I’d advise you to keep it zipped when Tommy tells you that the Bully of the school tripped him, other than to say, “Wow, that really stinks.” Later that night, when it’s private and appropriate, bring it up again and go to town on making sure that the Bully got his just desserts! You could also do a “What was weird or wacky,” roundtable, or pick up a book of conversation starter topics. (Go ye to Google, my friend!) Let your kids take turns with the conversation starters.

Where to begin: If you’re not regularly having meals as a family, start with one night a week (or one weekend daytime meal) that is usually predictable. Sunday evening works for many, and it’s a great time to review and preview.  Look at your calendar and see if you can identify several dates in the future and commit to them. Your tradition will be unique, but the earlier in your kids’ life you begin, the better the chance you have of making it a permanent, significant part of their sense of family when they are teenagers – and it they are already teenagers, you can still work it out. You will be giving them a several-times-a-week reminder that they belong, that they are part of a something, that come Bullies or drama queens, they will be able to sit amongst loved ones later in the day, share a meal and a story, and know that they are loved.