Monday, February 8, 2016

Connections Matter!

      Last night, I had a conversation with two of my friends discussing Super Bowl Parties.  None of us really cared too much about the football game, but loved the aspect of fellowship.  Many corps parties we have been a part of had options for our crafty people so that they weren't bored during the game.  And of course, who doesn't love football food? Whether or not we watched the game, we had a great time together. The conversation got my wheels turning though, and it made me think about how we connect with others.
     Community Cares (The Salvation Army's Outreach ministry to Nursing Homes/Prisons etc.)  is really about connections.  Connections to the least of these, the forgotten, the sick, and the lost.  It is about connecting with our neighbors by providing a service, or just offering a listening ear.   I would think that having a Super Bowl party for your neighbors could absolutely count as Community Care if you were intentional about the fellowship aspect.
      But why wait for a special occasion like the Super Bowl, or a Holiday, like Christmas to make connections?   I realize that monthly visitation by the corps CCM (Community Care Ministry) group is encouraged, and in some places that works marvelously...but that isn't what I am really talking about here.  I think there comes a point, as we are discipling others, that it has to be more than us just facilitating a visit to a facility for our congregation or CCM group. Our corps people must be able to make connections themselves.  They don't necessarily have to invite people to their homes. Although what better way to live in community?  They could make a connection at the grocery store, at work, etc. They can go and visit a nursing home...on their own...because it is woven into their life as a child of God.
    While our intentional/ facility visit program is still viable, shouldn't the heart of Community Cares be woven throughout all we do in discipling our congregations with the many programs we already offer?  For those that struggle with time or with having able bodied or willing people, this is vital!  You may not have a lot of people that want to do CCM, but you can utilize your present groups either by scheduling or inspiring them to visit on their own.  (I would rather they be inspired!!!!)
    Think of Community Cares, as Community Connections. Your corps could be keeping track of the "connections" they have made.  Following through on a few connections, could turn into discipling others.  I wonder if our impact would be greater, even if there were fewer "connections"?   You could even do a social media campaign, like #connectionsmatter or #communitycare to motivate your corps people to make connections.
    As you plan out your Community Cares this year, consider the resources you already have.  Your character building groups, women's and men's ministries, and Sunday Congregation.  Remind them, that they are the body of Christ and that community starts with them.  They don't have to wait for you as the corps officer to drive them to a Nursing Home.  They can start it at a Sunday Night dinner in their home, or in a conversation with the cart attendant at the grocery store.  Connections matter.  Inspire them to start making them today!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Goodbye Summer...

This summer has been good to us.  We started it early by pulling our kids out of school three days before it ended.  (Don't worry, in our state we can fill out a form for educational outings.  This allowed us to take those days as excused absences!)  We decided to take a cross country trip to California.  Not only did we drive...but we camped too!  One night, we even camped in a teepee!  It was a cold 32 degrees that night!

We got to experience the Grand Canyon in all it's beauty.

 We got to spend time with our brother and sister and cousin.    And Beach time!!!

We stopped a lot along the way, seeing the Hoover Dam, Mohave Desert, Gateway Arch, and just the beauty of our country.

We drove two weeks through 13 states and loved every minute of it!

We still had a ton of summer left, but were never bored.

We had VBS, a thrift store remodel, Cadet intern, two camp assignments between us, things one and two spent three weeks with Grammie and Papa T, and we had one fabulous week at TYI.

We ended our summer the way we love to.  Together.  Oh and some fishing.


Now on to fall and all that comes with that.  Of course, we weren't expecting to experience two first days of school.  That my friends is a story for another day!  Until then, farewell Summer 2015.  You were awesome on so many levels! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Simple Sallie

For the last four years, I have strived to live a more simplified lifestyle.  I have discussed it a few times on this blog, but recently I have been asked more questions, and thought it would be easiest to put it here to begin the conversation.

Why Minimalism?

My husband and I didn't realize it at first, but even after our first and second moves we were headed in this direction.  We were packing up boxes upon boxes of unused items, half-empty bottles of shampoo, clothes we no longer needed.  We took a van load to the donation box before the move and one after we moved that second time.  By the third move, we were done wasting our energy on stuff we never used.  So we made a rule:  Each room 5 boxes or less!  That's right.  In any room of our home, we can pack it in 5 boxes or less.  In many rooms, it is much less.  What began as a way to increase productivity in our move, became much more.  Today, I can pack a five bedroom house in about 20-30 boxes!  This does not include Christmas decorations, but I am slowly getting those down as well.

Because we had less stuff, we had more space.  More space meant less to clean.  Less to clean meant we had more time to spend with each other!  The benefits of less stuff far outweighed any regret of losing an item.

The Process.

I read a book entitled, The House That Cleans Itself.  (This link is for a newer version) This book laid out a plan to go through the entire house and find the problems in each room.  I created a notebook that included a page for every room or zone in the house and wrote the problems and then potential solutions for each area.  I methodically went through each space, cleaned, fixed broken furniture, and purged in any unneeded items.  The kids' rooms definitely took the longest, but they are now involved in the process as well.  When they discovered that cleaning their room was much easier with less stuff, they were on board.

I also read books and blogs about minimalism.  Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  My favorite resource is Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist.

Let It Go!

The hardest part is letting go of the guilt associated with getting rid of items that have sentimental value or that were given to us by someone.  There are things I will not part with (i.e. baby books, pictures, baby blankets).  But not everything that is gifted to us will remain with us.  When I let go of the guilt, it was easier to let go of the items.  More often than not, we are able to bless someone else by donating it or giving it away.

It Went On From There...

After decluttering physical items, we started simplifying our food as well.  I try to buy fresh produce and meat, and other than bread, rice, and spices, we really only have to shop on the outer rim of the grocery store.  Less items, means less time at the grocery, and more time for us!   It also makes us healthier!  Bonus!

After this last move, we made the decision not to purchase a cable plan for our home.  We instead invested in a good antenna.  You can read about our decision to cut the cord here.  We figured out how to install it in the attic and now have 20 channels to choose from, all free!  We do have an internet subscription and stream Hulu and Netflix.  We limit our children's screen time anyway and we really don't turn on the TV much.  We are saving a ton of money and we have the added benefit of limited commercials!  We aren't having to shield our children from the horrible things on the screen, and we are not battling the "I Have to Have this Toy" because they see it on a commercial.

We are limiting chemicals in our home.  I now make all of our cleaning products and laundry detergent.  My goal is to be completely chemical free this next year.

We no longer buy movies, books, or video games.  Our local library offers a great selection of these items.  We utilize the library weekly!!  We rarely even spend money at the Redbox anymore!

The Benefits Are Endless...
We are spending less because we are intentional about what comes into our home.
We have more time to spend with our family because we aren't spending time cleaning and decluttering, or watching TV.
We are not bogged down with stuff, instead enjoying a clean; freeing space.
We have time to spend on the things we are passionate about.

We Are a Work in Progress
We still have a way to go.  I would like to purge more of my clothing and paper clutter.  My husband may or may not have shirts he wore in high school. My kids love Lego's!  And people love my kids.  They get gifts like any other 9 and 11 year old!  We continually have to purge and edit to make sure the clutter stays at bay.  We have a plan, and that is the most important piece of simplifying.

In what ways have you began to simplify?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Answer to Prayer and Great Things to Come

I have had a vision for this blog for a long time.  I see a place where ideas and resources are shared.  I love writing and I love helping others along this journey.  But I tell you, it has been hard.  My family and appointment have to come first.  Yesterday, I met someone who has had the same vision as me, but on the opposite end of the country.  And for the first time in a while, I see the vision acutally working!  I am not sure what it will look like, or if it will be here or somewhere else, but great things are coming.  Officer moms throughout the country will have a place to connect, share, and encourage one another. Instead of one or two or forty, there are now 500 Salvation Army Officer Moms connected on one facebook group.  That is an amazing thing!  For years, I have scoured the internet for other Salvation Army Women blogs, and there aren't many!  In the meantime, pray for this group.  Pray for the Officer Moms out there who are needing encouragement and friendship.  Pray for this blog.  As busy as I am, I know this is a ministry too.  I know that there is a reason I haven't deleted this space yet.  I know there is a reason that I keep being called back.

You may be hearing more from me again.  I hope you will stick around.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Tonight was a hard night for the kids.  I found myself looking out the window a few times to check to see if there was a full moon.  There was a moment where I thought that solace would never come.  Thing Two was having a moment of sadness (which is a nice way of saying she was having a total melt down for almost an hour).  Thing One had his toe stubbed by the bathroom door, because he was intruding on his sister's privacy.  The proceeding scream told me he was really hurt.  The next three hours were filled with crying and agony from a boy that had to learn the hard way that somethings take time to heal.  (Wow!  That's a sermon illustration for another time!)  Three hours later, there is finally silence.  Well, aside from a snoring dog taking up entirely too much space on the couch.

The Silence is nice.  I should be going to bed at this late hour, but I am basking in its glow.  I think I have been craving silence.  I typically like a little back ground noise.  Maybe a fan or a little music to soften the space...but lately I have felt like I am in some sort of wind tunnel.  Too many distractions are taking up my time and my thoughts.  In the silence, I finally can steady my feet.  I finally can find what I think I have been missing.  I finally can focus on the One Thing I should be focusing on!  Him!

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10 New American Standard

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  Psalm 46:10 New International Version

I am enjoying being still.  I am embracing the silence and it feels good.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why We Cut the Cord and Never Went Back

About two years ago, I set out on a journey to simplify my life.  This included aspects of my ministry and my family/home life.  It is still a work of progress for sure.  Different seasons breed different kinds of chaos, but for the most part we are on our way to a simplistic lifestyle that is fine tuned to our family.  One of the great pieces of advice I've been given was to cut out screen time.  At first, I was leary of that even being possible.  I have always been a techy kind of girl..., although in small amounts, we let our children delve into the world of video gaming, there are tv shows that I regularly tune into, and we love movies.  There was a small voice however, tugging at the back of my mind.  "Carey, how much time do you actually spend on the screen? Not to mention the monthly cost of even the most basic service."  My self-analysis was startling.  I was spending more time on TV and screen time than I was with my kids and my husband!!! 
And most of that time was spent changing the channel because there was nothing to watch!!!  The price of basic service even in a bundle was $40-50 a month.  $600 a year that could be spent on something more worthy.

I knew something had to change.

After we received the call that our appointment was changing in June, we made a decision to live at the apartment attached to the building while we were cleaning the house and getting it ready for the next officers.  During that time, we didn't have cable, only a small antenna we had found in the back of the closet.  There were an abundance of channels available and it got me to thinking, if we can live two weeks without cable, we could go a few months...and if we could go a few months without cable, I don't think we need cable at all.

So this June, my husband and I made the decision to not get cable service hooked up to the house.  Seven months later, and we are still cable free.  

Why We Don't Regret the Decision

Less Commercials:  With Netflix, there are no advertisements.  Now when my children watch kids shows, we have the added benefit of them not asking us for the new and latest thing!  With that also comes shortened episode time, and less time on the screen!  

With PBS kids programming, I also know that the advertisements are appropriate for children and don't have to run to change the channel if a less than family friendly commercial comes on.  

Digital HD Picture:  The picture quality on the channels we get through the antenna are Digitally projected in HD!  The picture has been better than it was when we were connected to cable!  I am sure that will differ depending on how close you are to the broadcasting channel, but it was definitely a great surprise.

Spend Less Money:  Paying for cable was hurting the pocketbook as well.  A basic service here in Ashland, even bundled, was going to be $55 a month.  We just knew that wasn't a necessary expense.  We opted to get an internet service that would allow us to stream netflix and content from the networks instead. We are saving $600 + a year and all we did was buy an antenna from Wal-mart. 

More Health Conscious:  We are no longer just sitting on the couch.  We are up playing outside, riding bikes, or hanging out with friends.  We are exploring our town and the benefits of living here are endless.  We have cave systems, museums, and a national forest at our fingertips!

More time on what matters:  Now that we only have 15 channels available, we don't spend much time channel surfing.  If there is something we want to watch, we either watch it then or wait until it is available online.  We typically don't watch much TV anyway, especially while the kids are awake, so we wait and watch after they go to bed.  We now have more time to spend doing something productive or fun with the kids.  

Don't Be Afraid to Take the Leap:  

The customer service representative at your local cable company will be quick to tell you that your other bundled services like phone and internet will cost more if you cancel cable.  Don't listen to the hype.  I would argue that even if that were true, the benefits of not having cable outway any savings you may have bundling.  Cable companies can charge more for commercial spots based on the number of subscribers they have.  They will do anything to keep you!  

Yes, there are times we miss it.  Especially, ESPN and HGTV, but most major sports events happen on network tv, and our local PBS station has many programs that mirror what HGTV and Food Network provide.  We did also agree to pay personally for a Netflix subscription which gives us access to movies and past seasons of many TV shows, especially Children's programming.   Hulu + is another subscription service that allows you to view recently aired tv shows and some movies.  Many cable channels like HGTV also run episdodes on Hulu+.  Even that is worth $8 a month and while there are commercials they are considerably shorter than regular TV.

While we haven't completely turned off the TV, our time spent watching has been cut down drastically. We may watch 5- 6 hours of TV a week instead of a day.  That is more time spending it with people we love and on things that are most important to us.

We aren't perfect.  There are days where we watch more TV than I intend...but all in all we are working to improve our quality of life and have drastically reduced our dependence on TV.  We have cut the cord and have no intentions of going back!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ideas on Inspiring Service and why It Is Important for the Congregation...and YOU!!!

Our busy season of fundraising in the Salvation Army has come to an end for another year.  Many outside The Salvation Army would recognize a bigger presence outside local department stores, groceries, and pharmacies in their local town during the last few months.  Perhaps a few more articles in the newspaper or personal interest stories on the TV are also noticed.   But that season is so much more than that.  Our corps (church) activities continue, feasts of celebration for Thanksgiving and Christmas still go on, and a special season of Advent each Sunday.  Many of our corps also coordinate gift giving to local nursing homes, special meals for the community and shelters, and the list goes on and on.  Along with our ministry with The Salvation Army, many of us have families either at home or far away.   The kids have special school programs and projects, our long distance families long for plans to be made for visits, and sickness can also pop up along the way.  I don't really think I have to list it all for you to get the drift...many of you live the same as I do and recognize, there is no way we can do it all on our own.

During the month of January, it has been my custom to take a look back and reflect upon what worked and what didn't over the last few months.  I dropped the ball on a few things this season and that is a reminder that I need to enlist the help of my staff, volunteers, and corps members.  I have always struggled with taking on everything.  My reasons vary, (I do have some controll issues), but I also hate asking people to do something!  I don't want to be an inconvienience to someone.  But I have realized lately in both experiencing this Christmas in another new appointment and in Bible Study that it is a believer's duty to serve others.  I am essentially taking that opportunity away from the congregation, when I do things on my own.

As this New Year begins, I am working on new goals for myself and for the corps.  One of the big ones is giving our corps members the opportunity to use what God has given them to the serve the church and community.  This is a win-win for our corps.  It allows them to grow spiritually in the spiritual discipline of serving and it takes a little weight off our shoulders.  Honestly, it may take a while for this to take effect.  Time issues, insecurities about abilities, and a myriad of other things will distract us from our goal, but I truly feel God is leading us in that direction.  So here are the steps we are taking to lead the congregation in this direction.

1.  Identify the Strengths of the Corps Members.  
There are many evaluation tools available to do this.  Probably the most prevelant is the Spiritual Gifts Test or Assesment.  An internet search will provide many free assesments as well as more in depth tests that can be purchased.  This allows the congregation to answer honestly.  In previous appointments we have done this on a Mid-Week Service or during a weekend seminar.  Once the test is scored by the individual, the test can give them their bigger strengths.

2.  Identify the Needs of the Corps and Community.
List all of the needs of the corps (and possibly the community).  Include tasks big and small.  You may have individuals physically unable to do some tasks, so having those will help them feel utilized.  You may also categorize these to make it easier.  Include local officer positions as well.

3.  Match Gifts with Needs.
Most decent spiritual gifts assesments will come with the gifts categorized as well.  Match your corps and community needs into those categories.  Once the self-evaluations are completed allow the individuals to choose their service opportunities with their gifts.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies -- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV

4.  Commitment Service
During a worship service or special commitment service, have a special prayer time where your congregation can write down the service opportunities they would like to participate in.  They can do this privately on a small piece of paper or you can place the giant post-it notes sheets all over the wall with the areas of service and allow them to sign their name below the gift.  

5.  Follow-up and Accountability
Very soon after the prayer service, contact each individual and talk to them about their gifts and if possible place them into their service opportunity or position.  If more training is needed, also set that up.  Regularly check up on their service areas, making sure you equip them for their task.  Between six months to a year, check up on them to see how they feel, how they have grown.  

"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;"  1 Peter 5:2 ESV

"to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:12 ESV

6.  Celebrate
At the end of the year, thank them for their service and commitment.  Gifts don't have to be elaborate.  Even a card or certificate may do.  Lots of ideas on pinterest for candy bar grams.

"So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith."  Galatians 6:10 ESV

The important thing for you to do, is LET THEM DO IT!!!  

"Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of The Lord."  James 5:14 ESV

I also would caution you to not always pick up the slack on things that maybe the corps members didn't sign up to do.  (We may hear gasps from above!!)  I preface this by saying, by no means does this give us an excuse to not do anything!  But I am saying if you and your congregation have decided what is important to them, then you may want to evaluate the other ministries to see how important they are.  Some are still very vital, but some may not be needed.  If you have a shortage of volunteers check to see if the ministry can be included in an already existing program.    A lot of our ministries go hand in hand and can be consolidated if needed.

I believe that Community Cares is one of those programs.  Many of our other ministries such as Home League (Women's Ministries) and our character building programs have service project components to their programming.  If you don't have many (or any) volunteers to help with your nursing home visitations, utilize the service components of these other ministries and help with those visitations.

What happens if something does fall through the cracks?
So confession time!!!  Its not always so pretty on the other side of the tunic is it?  With everything going on this Christmas season, my corps ministry fell short.  Christ should have been the focus, and I got caught up in the worries of Angel Tree and Kettles, and didn't always put my full attention on the worship aspect of Advent.  I also did not schedule Community Cares Visitation.  (Gasp!!!)  I know, that after the stats are evaluated, I will get that dreaded email.  I am sure some of you may even be thinking, "how could you?"  I am planning a Valentine's Day event to help fill the gap (just so you know)...but I should have asked for help from our corps members and groups but didn't.  

Sometimes things fall through.  I am not making light of the situation nor am I advocating for all of us to drop things for the heck of it!  But when things like this happen, try not to let it get you down.  I try to teach my children daily how to take full responsibility for their actions.  Good or bad, they must accept the consequences for the actions with integrity and humility.  I too will have to face the "music" (may it be the "Imperial March" or something more dreadful), and then...I move on.  I don't have time to dwell on it, I have to move forward, because tomorrow the guests in our shelter, the congregation, the thrift store, and the community may need me.  And I have to be there.  I can't be there if I am burned out.  I can't be there if I am dwelling on mistakes.  And now, I know I can't be there alone.  So utilize your corps and community and try not to do it by yourself.  Take it from someone who experienced it recently.