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Lessons Learned in L.A.

I recently enjoyed a weekend in Los Angeles with my three daughters. This momma learned a few things and I thought I’d share them this week:

  1. We never know who may be encouraged when we read our Bible in plain view. I was walking on the beach within an hour of my flight landing. I could feel the tension just sliding off me as soon as my feet touched sand. In the mile or so that I walked in the sand along the ocean surf I saw three different young adults sitting and reading their Bibles. Maybe locals will tell you differently, but this was not what I was expecting to see on the beach in LA! Whenever I read my Bible at a coffee shop, café, or park people say stuff to me like Oh I should do that more, or good for you, or wow, what a reminder. So here I was experiencing that visual: People all over the world love and follow Jesus! I came away encouraged just seeing these folks and resolving to live my faith out in transparent ways. (Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount: Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16)
  2. I am working at practicing more acceptance and less judgment. I’ve realized how often I judge people and situations by first appearance. For instance, I learned that Nicki Minaj is a believer and has a sweet rap in the Tasha Cobbs Leonard gospel song, “I’m Getting Ready.” An employee at my hotel looked tough as nails but then God prompted me to pray for her and He gave me a prophetic word for her. She literally hugged me when we said good bye. I learned that San Francisco has already instated laws and LA is close behind that prohibit anyone not waccinated from entering a restaurant, bar, concert venue, hospital visitation, or event center. At first glance this might seem to carry logic, but I don’t see how this isn’t a new version of you can’t sit at my lunch counter! Kaiser found that over half of African Americans and Latinos are not waccinated and don’t want to be. I know many people who have already had the virus and believe their natural immunity will last. I know several women with health issues that prevent taking the jab but now, in California at least, they are shunned from society. I’m not going to judge anyone if they have it, don’t have it, don’t want it. I know that we each are trying to live our lives in the best way possible that fits for us. (Jesus again has the lowdown: “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2)
  3. We will reap what we sow, especially in the investments we make with family. I was in LA because my daughters wanted to have a mother daughter weekend together. They are successful, grown women who could fly anywhere for a weekend and be with just about anyone, who wanted to spend a weekend moving slow with their mom and each other. I felt so loved and honored. These are my favorite people on the planet! Every night as we got into our matching pjs (thank you Brooke!) laughing, cuddling, and eating chocolate I was reminded of the investments of love, patience, compassion, and listening that graced their childhood. To all you mommas out there—you will reap a precious reward one day! Keep your love on, keep smiling and laughing, keep speaking words of life over your children. (“Whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” Galatians 6:7-9)
  4. When in doubt about where to go for dinner, always get tacos! This one needs no explanation. If you can think of a good scripture to go with it, please put it in the comments!

I received such a lovely text this week from a woman who recently received my book. She said she devoured half of it on a flight and said it had changed her entire outlook. As she was ordering ten copies for friends I was reminded (because yes, I forget or I doubt) God inspired me to write this book for the times we are in now! If you haven’t already, please get my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold. It will encourage you, make you laugh, and give you fresh insights for this crazy life.

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Celebrating Moms

Does anyone else have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day? Maybe our mom wasn’t so great and Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what we never had. Or maybe our mother has passed and we just miss her. Maybe we long to become a mom but it just hasn’t happened. 

I know it’s supposed to be a special day with family but when my kids were young, I just wanted a day off! It took me a few years as a mother to realize that I need to communicate in the week leading up to Mother’s Day what I would like to see happen.  Moms, set the expectations for your day! No one can read your mind or guess what feels honoring to you. Let your family know ahead of time what makes you feel uniquely loved, appreciated, and honored.

When Mother’s Day is no big deal, everyone loses: our children don’t learn how to demonstrate honor and respect toward women, a watching community fails to perceive the value of motherhood. And let’s face it, us moms are giving it all we’ve got 24/7 and a genuine expression of love would be like oxygen to our soul!  We live in a culture where women haven’t always been honored. To swim upstream from that current creates a space where mothers are celebrated and treated with respect.

I like to think of the week leading up to Mother’s Day as a great time to hit all the love languages as we honor the mommas around us. I reach out to the women who have played the important role of mentor in my life. I recognize the great moms in my community. Women can encourage each other this week– with words of affirmation in what we say or write. We can create quality time together or send a gift that shows our thoughtfulness. We can find ways to serve each other, honor each other, and show affection. We all long to know that we are doing a beautiful job as a mom and that perhaps others see it and are inspired.

Whenever I begin to doubt my impact as a mother or question the worth my role, I reflect on the honor that Jesus displayed toward His mother. In His final act of honor, love, and compassion Jesus spoke to His mother from the cross. He charged His number one disciple, John, to care for His mother. And then He released His Spirit to God. Think about it–in a cultural context where women were not honored or esteemed, Jesus cared for His mother in a practical and profound way.

Do you have a spiritual mom in your life? A woman who took the time to mentor and disciple you? Honor her this week! If you are blessed to have your mom in your life or to be that mother to little ones, take time this week to celebrate this privilege. And to all the mommas out there, God bless you this week and thank you for all that you do to make this world a beautiful place! 

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Real Talk

Finding a faith-based women’s group that feels safe, fun, and inspiring is not always easy! When I traveled to Israel last year, I met Pastor Lily of Family Community Church in San Jose and a wonderful group of women from the church who were all traveling together.  I’ve enjoyed being a part of this group ever since. Pastor Lily interviewed me to talk about my faith journey and writing my book, Gracious Living. I thought for the blog today it would be fun to share our interview. The sound is a bit quiet for the first five minutes but hang in there because my mic does get turned up! We talk about dynamics of walking closely with God, forgiveness, shame, and more. Listen to it at: https://youtu.be/KZhNtOhpEwA

And remember, I have free encouraging resources on my website www.MargaretAllen.org Sign up for the blog at the bottom of Monday’s with Margaret. You can find my book there or anywhere books are sold: Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion.

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Thanksgiving

Hosting a Thanksgiving gathering is more about the atmosphere than the applesauce. Don’t worry about fancy centerpieces or perfect food. Create an honoring environment to ensure a memorable day. Here are five tips for hosting your group. These are the ideas and actions I carry into a holiday week to engage in meaningful experiences for myself and everyone involved. No matter who is gathered around your table or on Zoom, these points help create a beautiful time!

  1. Celebrate our wins. Celebrate each person and how God has brought them this far. Celebrate what your family has overcome. Truly take a full account of the good in your world. Rather than being the low-key family that just keeps plugging along, take time to savor, cherish, and celebrate what each one has accomplished. “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31) Some of us are soaring above it all; others are running, and some are barely walking. For every situation, celebrate the ways God is supplying strength!
  2. Grieve our losses. Many of us have come from families that never acknowledge the hard times, the wounds, the losses. But being vulnerable and honest about what didn’t go right this year is ironically a wonderful way to draw closer.  Create a safe space for each person to share what they are grieving in this time. Some hurts and losses can’t be fixed, but acknowledging them may bring healing. “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
  3. Welcome God to our party! Even Christian families struggle to embrace a spiritual element in their holiday time. Either the wine starts flowing too early or the football game is so loud or the rush to get the perfect meal to the table takes over. We must create the margin somewhere in this day to welcome God into our hearts and minds, as well as our conversations. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Psalms 34:3)
  4. Look in the mirror. Seriously though, I’ve gone an entire Thanksgiving Day where I never once glanced in a mirror. No one really knows how much us moms work to make the details run smoothly, so I look myself in the eye and say, Maggie you did a great job! You planned and prepared a beautiful meal, you loved people well, you created a gracious family culture and a legacy for others to continue. Girl, I’m proud of you. And I smile. Then I probably run into the kitchen to frantically get stuff out of the oven but that’s ok. I had my moment.
  5. Keep the main thing the main thing. I don’t care if someone is acting horribly or if our team loses or if the election actually was rigged. This is a holiday. Take a break from the drama and savor the goodness of God in your world. Look people in the eye and tell them how precious they are to you. I’ve never regretted a moment I spent loving God or loving people. “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

 Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends! If you read this blog on FB, let me know which points you are implementing! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can find my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold.

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Coming Home

When many of us return home for Thanksgiving, we quickly revert to old family patterns and expectations. We’ve all seen it, the one labeled sensitive in junior high is still thought of as delicate. The favored one still gets the best seat at the table. The responsible one is still expected to do all the dishes and so on. Sometime we have to take a step back from what we think we know about each other and allow curiosity and openness to reveal what’s new.  Of any year in our lifetime, 2020 is surely the year to bring a fresh approach to our family time.

Believe it or not, Jesus went through this same scenario with His family. In Mark 3 we get the uncensored version of how some families respond to change. A multitude had surrounded Jesus so that He couldn’t even get a bite to eat. “But when His own people (His family) heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.””  (Mark 3:21) It’s almost as if his family was saying Dude, you are a carpenter not a rabbi! What the heck, man? The brothers of Jesus later grew accustomed to His new position and encouraged Him to go to Jerusalem for essentially a publicity hype to boost His popularity. Scripture doesn’t sugar-coat it by summarizing: “For even His brothers did not believe in Him.” (John 7:5) Jesus later defined family as “whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

Jesus spent the majority of His life in His family household. But His family only knew Him in the flesh. The did not know Him in the Spirit. They didn’t know His purpose or calling. They had to grow and process new information about Him just like everyone else. Many people He grew up around could not accept Jesus for who He became. They questioned, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son?” The passage concludes, “So they were offended at Him.” (Matthew 13:55-57) Is there offense in any of our gatherings?

In our homes over Thanksgiving, people we have known in the flesh will be gathered around our table. Instead of looking at them in the flesh- the way they speak and interact, the ways we’ve always known them to be, why not look at them with spiritual eyes? Ask God to reveal His calling on their life.  Ask God to give a glimpse into HIS heart for our families. We can ask God to give specific scripture for someone at our table. He alone knows what encourages us and reminds us that He sees our heart. This Thanksgiving, allow the Holy Spirit to usher in a refreshing presence of curiosity and acceptance. Surely this is the heart of creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion.

Next week I will share five tips for hosting a loving and beautiful holiday gathering. I’m excited for new ways of creating the culture we long to possess! Thanks to everyone who has been sharing my blog and remember you can sign up to receive it in your email by going to www.MargaretAllen.org and scrolling to the bottom of Monday’s with Margaret. We just started the second printing of my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion.  Get it anywhere books are sold.

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Shifting the Atmosphere

Wisdom writings in the Bible said: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3) I’ve been reflecting on what brings joy in life and what doesn’t. It’s easy to get stuck in patterns that aren’t helpful or healthy. Us moms often have a finger on the pulse of our homes: are people tired, frustrated, bored? Are we in a slump of watching TV every night or retreating to our own rooms? Maybe we are already anticipating what Thanksgiving will be like with family this year. Now is the time to evaluate how we are doing and make mid-course adjustments. We can introduce change in thoughtful and fun ways. Does our family need nurturing or change right now? Here are five easy and inexpensive hacks to shift our home atmosphere this week:

  1.  Get outside. Even if it’s just going for a walk in your neighborhood or playing games in the front yard, it feels good to get outside and move around. If you have more time available, hike the nearby mountains, enjoy the sunset, or play at a park or beach. We all need a change of scenery. Simply discover the space that speaks to you. Ahh, fresh air!
  2. Serve somebody. Our lives are meant for higher purpose and nothing feels better than to serve others. Bake cookies for a neighbor, volunteer at a family shelter, babysit for a single mom. We all are seeking connection in this difficult time. Volunteer opportunities abound and, as much as you can make service decisions a group effort, you will witness your family’s heart light up with meaning.
  3. Set boundaries on your time. Now that we are working from home and living at work, we need structure. Note your work schedule, technology use, time sitting vs. active and so on. Design a weekly schedule that creates the life you long for. Does your time allow for relationships, creativity, exercise, great food, music, and gratitude? Setting mindful boundaries gives us space to savor the good things in life! 
  4. Create a Spiritual Climate. How can we withstand the negativity in our culture right now if our families have no shared spiritual experiences? Let your kids hear you pray, worship, read scripture. Discuss what God is doing in your lives. Read a few scriptures together after dinner each night. It is never too late or too early to establish a godly culture within your home.
  5. Learn together. If this entire year is just one big time-out, we might as well learn something! Kids love learning alongside their parents. Watch YouTube videos to master juggling, or how to paint a landscape like Bob Ross, cook Thai cuisine, design 2020 T-shirts for your family, and so on.  We all have something we wish we could improve if we only had the time. 

To everything there is a season. What’s working for you? Go to www.MargaretAllen.org for declarations to speak over your life and to get the book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion.

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Sent

It seems like two days ago I was buckling my four precious kiddos into their seats in the tan minivan. This week the oldest is getting married and the youngest is graduating from high school. My sentimental feelings are wildly juxtaposed with feelings of sadness over our country’s systemic racism. Our family conversations have careened from George Floyd’s murder to decorating the wedding cake. And who the hell has time for Coronavirus right now?

My dad worked at M.D. Anderson hospital in the 1960’s. I remember asking him about racism back then. It turns out that M.D. Anderson had segregated bathrooms and water fountains in the ‘60’s. Being from the North, he was not familiar with these practices. My dad said he was reprimanded when he went into the “Black” bathroom or drank from a “colored only” water fountain. He told me, “As scientists, we thought it was ridiculous. We knew that under a microscope everyone’s blood looks the same.” Cautiously, I asked him what he did about it. I’ll never forget his answer: “I was working on my PhD. We were newly married and starting our family. Our life was so busy. I didn’t do anything about it. I was just living my life.” Sigh.

Am I really any different? I read works of black authors, support black businesses, push for diversity in my small circles of influence, but these are small gestures. And they cost me nothing. Again, deep sigh. In the midst of graduations and planning a backyard wedding, a new resolve has awakened in my heart to do better, to be more curious, more thoughtful, more honoring.

We watched the Netflix documentary 13th last night. I recommend it. If you have never heard Bryan Stevenson, check out his insightful Ted talk: “We need to talk about an Injustice” These are great starting points for discussion. We all have much listening and learning to do.

Hope came to me in a surprising way this week. With all these emotions swirling around me, of course I turned to scripture to find some insight. I looked and prayed and looked some more. Nothing stood out until I came across Psalms 127:4 “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” An arrow only fulfills its purpose when it is SENT. Each one of us as a child of God are sent into the world for a purpose. I have sent my children out as arrows—to fight injustice and oppression and to bring healing and light. Be a SENT one this week my friend. Create a culture of honor, love, compassion, and justice.

Go to MargaretAllen.org to buy my book, Gracious Living, Creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. If you prefer an E version, go to Amazon or Barnes&Noble.