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Friday, July 31, 2015

When You HEAR God Calling

My first post went live on November 25, 2009 and it had the interest-piqueing, adrenaline-pinching title of "Let's Try This Out." I wrote a tittilating post about the lyrics to a Casting Crowns song. I originally started the blog on MySpace to share what I was learning in my Bible reading. It was a means to hold myself accountable for being in the Word and also a way to publicly share my faith (which I was too ashamed to do for quite a while.)

And I had trouble sleeping that night as I envisioned how many people would read my thoughts and judge me based on them. (FYI, it had a GRAND TOTAL of 30 views, so I needn't have worried.)

From that point on, I wrote what was on my heart and shared my crazy life of being a stay-at-home mom of many (at the time of the first post I had 4 kids) and felt this overwhelming welcome from the Momy Blogger community. I encountered a whole new world. A world where women, like me, wrote and shared about their lives while simultaneously embracing me and all the messiness of mine. It was invigorating and addicting. 

Pretty soon, I had a modest following and plenty of "regulars" who would happen by the blog to check in and comment. (If you don't know, comments are a balm to a blogger's soul. It gets lonely feeling like we're talking to ourselves all the time.) And as my "followers" grew, my love of writing what God was doing in my life waned. Before long, I was sharing more of the funny, mundane of my everyday and less and less of God. I saw that my readers responded better to the humor, so I customized my posts to bring in more comments and more accolades. 

And then I just stopped writing for a while. I took 2 months off in 2011. It felt like longer, but I just double checked and sure enough, it wasn't longer. 

Looking back, I see that God was saying to me, "That's not what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be sharing your love of Me with others. You're supposed to be following Me, not gaining followers of your own."

Of course, I didn't hear Him with my ears. This is more something He put on my heart, but it took me a while to hear it. In fact, it's taken me about 6 years, really, to fully HEAR Him.

So, today marks a new chapter in my writing. Very soon I will be changing my blog name to mandypagano.com and Suburban Stereotype will be a thing of the past. It's a fond part of my past, at that. Blogging is where I truly discovered my love of writing. It's where God helped me work out many issues where my flesh wrestled with my Spirit. And it's also where I got  to "meet" so many of you who struggled and labored to work out your salvation just like me. 

God has been working on me, feverishly, although patiently as well. I am HEARING Him and I am ready to move forward. That means no longer allowing myself the luxuary of being afraid to speak the Truth. It means no longer being lazy when it comes to sharing who He is with the world. And it means stepping out in faith to go where He is calling me. 

It's scary and exciting. 

At the same time, I am being called much deeper with my team at Deliberate Women. We have some HUGE plans in the works that will (Lord willing) revolutionaize women's ministry and help to reach a world of aching women who NEED to know about the love of Christ. 

The truth is, I don't want to be luke warm in anything, but I especially don't want to be luke warm when it comes to Jesus. 

So here goes...

Very soon, when you come to this site, you will be redirected to "Mandypagano.com". 

Buckle up. Roll up your sleeves. We've got an entire globe of women who need to know who Jesus is and how He can rescue and redeem them. 

Are you ready? 

Check out the Deliberate Women team by clicking HERE

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#BEMORE: A Review of Sandi Krakowski's New Amazing Book.

I "met" Sandi online about a year or so ago. Her Tweets intrigued me and kept me coming back for more. I didn't know who she was, but I knew I was drawn to her and the positive attitude she embodies. Even on social media I could feel her positivity. Also? She loves Jesus. So, not only are her words chalk-full of "feel good," they are also firmly rooted in Christ.

One night while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I replied to one of her Tweets, and to my surprise, she responded to me! If you don't know her, Sandi has over 1 million followers on her Facebook page alone. And she responded to me not only once, but twice! Her willingness to personally connect with her readers struck me. I became a regular follower of hers from that point on.

I was approached by The Fedd Agency, and asked to read and review her new book and I couldn't say "Yes!" fast enough. When I received her book, I was surprised by how small it was, but my oh my...it is JAM PACKED with wisdom that is separated into bite-size pieces. 

Reading #BEMORE made me get so excited! With every chapter I found myself reading out loud and racing to social media to share Sandi's thoughts. Suddenly, this "little book" was HUGE! Sandi breaks down her book into five different "Parts" and each part has "Secrets." The "Parts" are as follows:

Part I: Be More...Connected to God
Part II: Be More...In Tune With Yourself
Part III: Be More...Attentive to Your Relationships
Part IV: Be More...Engaged with Your Community
Part V: Be More...Mindful of Your World

Part I was enough to hook me. Honestly. When I read the following, I couldn't share it with my ministry team of Deliberate Women fast enough:
"The greatest trick the devil is pulling off in our lives today is convincing us that we don't matter and that God is no longer relevant. Stop being vulnerable to the devil. If we were more impressed with God than we are the other things of the world, the devil would have no power.  " Sandi Krakowski, #BEMORE, p 20.
As I'm reading, I'm surprised that what Sandi is saying pertains directly to me. It's powerful and Godly and relevant. I've shared several parts of her book with others including my husband because what she says is so needed in the world today. In a time when so many are seeking their value and worth in outside sources and searching for validation in temporal things, Sandi hits the nail on the head by driving  home who we are and whose we are. It's liberating and inspiring.

God has been taking me on a crazy, albeit relatively gentle journey the past decade or so. He's ramping things up of late, and Sandi's book came at the perfect time. She isn't afraid to speak boldly for Christ. She isn't scared of offending others by speaking Truth and she does so in such a way that the reader is encouraged, not discouraged.

Another thing I like about Sandi is that she is a woman who has teetered on the brink of utter calamity. Hers is not a past full of sunshine and roses or a silver spoon. Her past includes things like poverty and assault. She chose not to listen to others who would discount her pull to #BEMORE when they said she was merely going through a phase, but instead rose above and listened to the Heavenly Father to follow where He was leading her. And today, He has led her to several multi-million dollar businesses and a calling to encourage and inspire others. And that she has!

I wholeheartedly endorse Sandi's book #BEMORE and I encourage you to get a copy for yourself.

You can find Sandi Krakowski on Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE, and her website HERE.





*I received a copy of Sandi's book #BEMORE in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

For the Mom Crying as She Drives Away from Summer Camp

I watched as the group of boys played football, throwing it from one end of the yard to the other, yelling, hollering, and overall having a great time. My heart was in my throat as I watched two boys in particular...my oldest two sons.

My heart was silently shattering into a million tiny pieces as I watched them play, the two of them unaware that I had even pulled into the lot.

They were at sleep-away camp for the first time. At 9 and 10 years old, I wasn't confident they were old enough or ready to be away from home for an entire 5 days/6 nights. And, truthfully, I wasn't quite sure I was ready.

We went to registration with every intention of dropping off and picking up every day, right before breakfast, and right before bed. But as soon as the boys saw that their friend from church was going to stay the week, they immediately changed their minds and asked to stay too. 

I had already said my goodbyes, but with the understanding that I would be back to bring all the stuff we hadn't thought we'd need: sheets, pillow, change of clothes for the week, clean underwear, toothpaste, and shower soap that I'm not confident they'll even use...

But once I pulled back in and saw them playing, it started all over again for me,

It took them a while to notice me. Once they did, I expected them to run over to the van, but they didn't. They actually acted as if they hadn't seen me! I know this is all part of it--this growing up business that I haven't totally bought into, and it stung. 

I restrained myself enough not to call their names. I wanted to play the part of the cool mom, the one who waves happily and says, "have a great time!" and then makes plans to meet some friends for coffee. Truthfully, I'm not that mom. I don't know that I'll ever be or if I even want to be. 

The boys ran into their cabin with their new bunk-mates and I thought for a horrifying few moments that I wouldn't get to see them again before driving off, but then there they both were. I saw them come out onto their porch. And I have to tell you--in that moment, my whole being seized with such an intense and primal instinct. I said to myself, "They are mine. Those boys, those beautiful, sweet boys are my treasures. I am loaning them to you, world. Loaning. I want them back. You're so very lucky that I am generously loaning them to you..."

It was a quick thought, and it was immediately followed by the Lord pressing on my heart, "Just the way I am loaning them to you."

I know they aren't really mine. I also know that a week at sleep-away camp isn't tantamount to sending them off to war, like some moms have had to do. But man oh man, does it hurt. And I think it hurts so much because I realize this is just a glimpse of all the times I'm going to have to let them go as they get older, as they blossom into adults and go out into the world. 

My chief worry this week is that they'll be homesick and too embarrassed to tell anyone, that they'll skin their knee, or someone will be mean to them, but I realize that before I know it, I'll have greater worries. 

It's this time right now that I need to be putting Christ in front of them through my actions, the way I live my life, and by making sure they are in the Word. I need to be drinking in the moments that will be gone too fast. I need to hug a little longer, play games when I'd rather do something else and ignore the to-do list when they want my attention. 

This is a big deal for me, letting then stay at sleep-away camp. I didn't write The Anxious Mom eBook because I'm a calm, rational mom who enjoys her kids being away from her. I wrote it because I recognize the vast and gaping hole that should be my faith and Trust in God. 

Something I am realizing is that when you ask God to lead you on a journey toward being more Christ-like and to trust in Him, He will launch you on that journey. And with gusto! Instead of simply snapping His Divine fingers and granting me unwavering faith and trust or removing my fear and worry, He is instead placing me in situations and giving me opportunities to flex my trust muscle. I can either SAY I trust Him but still squirrel my kids away at home, or I can take a step in faith and allow myself to stand in that scary, terrifying place where I only have the Lord to hold onto for support. Instead of saying, "I trust You, Lord!" I can SHOW HIM that I do. 

I hate every single second of it.

And if one more person tells me to "let go" and stop worrying, violence may ensue. 

OF COURSE I know they're right. I know they are, those annoying individuals who wave their kids off to camp and college as if it isn't like losing a limb. {I'm only slightly serious about the "annoying" part...}

It doesn't make it any less hard. 

You're a mom who easily allows your kids to take chances, be independent and explore the world without you? That's fabulous! Kudos! I would like to be more comfortable doing the same. 

But please, please, don't poo poo a mom who is more apprehensive and less free to do so. 

Are you a mom who cried when dropping off her precious cargo at camp? Hear! Hear! I am with you in complete and full soilidarity! I feel you! I got you! I am metaphorically fist-bumping you right now. 

Let's do this together. Let's turn to the Lord and trust Him to care for what is His, K? 

But it doesn't mean we have to like it and it doesn't mean we won't cry bucket loads while we do...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Quiet Fight Between Women by Angie Tolpin - {A Review}

"The moment that we cannot see our sister the way God sees her and has created her, as a Daughter of the King, an important part of the Body of Christ with unique gifts, we have allowed the enemy to disable us as a team from fulfilling our greatest calling, to make disciples of Christ!" Angie Tolpin from a post taken from The Better Mom. (<--- This is just a glimpse into what Angie talks about in her new online course.)

Have you ever felt it?

The unspoken judgment, the sidelong glance, the whispers behind your back.

If you've ever compared yourself to another or felt less than, surely you have felt it: The quiet fight between women.

Angie Tolpin is passionate about this issue facing us in our churches today. Her heart bleeds onto the keyboard with every word she types when she talks about this insidious, yet common problem facing women. 

Why does this happen? How can we stop it? 


Angie Tolpin

Angie has taken much time to pray about, research, and flesh out an online course that leads us through identifying this issue and also knowing how to effectively deal with it. 

Angie's course--The Quiet Fight Between Women is an eight unit course that includes bite-sized videos of Angie (who understands that fitting in a study can be challenging given the busy-ness of our lives), thought-provoking questions, downloadable journal pages, and a Facebook group where we can really dig in and discuss what we are learning. 

A neat feature that I haven't seen used very often with online courses is a text accountability/encouragement feature that Angie uses as you complete different sections of the course. It was nice to know that my activity in the course was noticed. Even though I was taking the course by myself, I never felt alone.  

Angie has poured her heart into this course and into uniting women so that we can place our focus where it should be: On serving the Lord with our individual gifts and for His glory. Each unit is immersed in scripture and Biblically based. Angie has truly sought out the wisdom of the Lord to address this issue. 

This course is ideal for individuals because it's set at your own pace and has an open-ended course date. It's also great for small groups because the journal pages, discussion questions, and video sessions are provided for you.

If you are looking for a study to lead your small group through, this is it. It's meaty, it's Truth-filled, and it has the potential to change lives.

Find Angie on Facebook HERE.
Find Angie on Twitter HERE
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