Monday, November 26, 2018

Jealous Of The Thankful

Photo by Alex Geerts

Thanksgiving morning I found myself lying on the driveway underneath the bumper of my car.  The temperature was 12 degrees and I was holding a heat gun and a hammer.  Inside, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was starting, and I wasn't feeling very thankful.

Let's back up a little. This Fall has not been kind to my car.  In the last month and a half, I have had a rock hit my windshield, causing a dent in my line of sight, a flat tire and then, out of nowhere, as I was driving along the road to preschool, a huge branch dropped off of a tree at the exact second that my car drove past it, smashing my windshield and denting my hood.

But life wasn't done with my car...fast forward to Thanksgiving Day and the popping out of a dent in my bumper.  You know how people nickname their cars?  Well, my car's new nickname is "Job."  No, not the pronunciation of the word similar to what you go to 9-5, Monday through Friday.  No, the nickname of Biblical proportions.  As I said, Fall, life, or something else has had it out for my car.

In the midst of this craziness, enter November.  Each November, a number of my friends take up the lovely practice of posting each day on Facebook something that they are thankful for.  It's a beautiful devotion that I have done myself a couple of times.  It's a reminder to think each day about what God had done in our lives and to be reminded of all of the many, many things we have to be thankful for.  This year I decided not to do it.  For one, I was just busy this year taking care of my car problems and dealing with life in general.  But, last year as I was writing about all the many things I was thankful for, I tried to look at it from an outsider's perspective.  I realized that it almost felt like bragging.  Look at me and all these wonderful things I have to be thankful for.  Someone reading it might be single and be sad that they aren't married.  Someone struggling with infertility may be frustrated seeing my thankful posts about my kids.  I realized that it might be hard for someone to look at what I'm thankful for and wish they had some of those things.

Oddly enough, the reverse happened to me this year.  As I was going through my car problems and child-raising issues and hubby-working-all-the-time challenges, I began to read the thankfulness posts of my friends and acquaintances.  I found myself wishing I was thankful for those things too.  The kids with wonderful grades, the date nights, the kids who invited Jesus into their hearts at 18 months, the time and money to travel the world.  That green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.  So much so that I actually considered emailing some of the Facebookers and pointing out that their posts might be inadvertently hurting other people who aren't able to be thankful for those things this year.

In that moment, I had to stop and check myself.  I was about to complain as Job did in chapter 10 verse one, "I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul."  I realized that if I did, in fact, give voice to my complaints that I would be allowing that jealousy to poison my soul and leave it full of bitterness.  I realize that it wasn't really the Facebook posters' problem, it was my own.  My own insecurities about my parenting, my frustrations with my children and their reading levels and behaviors and the comparison of them to other kids. My anger about my car problems, my busyness, and the crazy level that was rising in my life had contributed to this jealousy and came to a head on Thanksgiving morning as I lay under the bumper of my car.

Ephesians 4:31 urges me to get rid of this bitterness.  All bitterness.  This has been a struggle for me in several areas, and I am learning to release it to God because it's too heavy to carry around.  I don't need it in my life.  When I need to hear things, God speaks them to me. Today, Hebrews 12:28 reminds me that "We are receiving a kingdom that can't be shaken.  So let us be thankful.  Then we can worship God in a way that pleases him.  Let us worship him with deep respect and wonder."  (NIRV)

Let us be thankful.  This is not a command but an invitation.  Thankfulness is a state of being, a state of mind in which we switch our brains from what we want, what we wish were the case, what we are jealous and sad about, to that which is bigger than ourselves.  No matter how much the Enemy tries to mess with us and literally throw rocks at our cars, it doesn't matter, because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Nothing we do, nothing that happens to us on a daily basis, can shake the Kingdom of God.   For this reason, let's remember to "give thanks in all circumstances" as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us.  In all circumstances, God is still God and his Kingdom is firm and steadfast.

If we do these things, if we live thankful lives, then we can worship God with the right frame of mind. We can worship God with deep respect and wonder.  The only right way to do it.  God is worthy of all of our respect and honor, just because he's God.  Not because we are having a great day, our kids are doing well and we got a great parking spot at work.  No.  Because He's God.  Because he's God, we have to look at him through eyes of wonder.  We may not understand what in the world is going on in our lives right now, but we can know that the God of Wonder is walking with us through it and he's calling us to a deeper understanding of himself.

The Message version of Hebrews 12 goes on to say that God is not an innocent bystander.  He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn.  He won't quit until it's all cleansed.  Today I've been reminded that God needs to torch the jealousy in my life and replace it with a deep sense of awe and wonder.

What in you needs to be cleansed and healed in order to draw on the infinite wonder and majesty that is God?





Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fall


Fall is brilliant in the coming.
A chill dances on the breeze
Cooling and stealing away summer’s heat
Trees begin their painting
Golds, oranges, reds
Pumpkin entices
With its deep autumn aroma
Boots walk us
Scarves warm us
Fall festivals keep us busy
As the slow boil of Fall turns to Winter freeze
I look longingly at the bathing suit in my drawer
And whisper
Goodbye summer.

~Alisa Laska 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

You Had Me At Kayak

I met my husband in South Carolina.  We spent most of our courtship dodging alligators and ducking snakes falling out of trees. 

Let me explain...

I won't go into how exactly we met.  (I'll leave that for another memoir blog!)  But, I will say that about a month after we met, my husband bought me a kayak.  I have to say that I freaked out a little bit at first.  I mean, this was a huge gift for someone whom he had really just met and had only been talking to for about two months or so.  I wondered what I should do?  I finally decided to accept the kayak and then if we happened to break up, as many relationships do, I would simply give him back the kayak.  Sounds good, right?  Well, we never broke up.

Turns out, he had me at kayak.  (Or so he likes to brag!)  Here is a picture of our two kayaks.  Mine is the blue one at the top.  South Carolina was a gorgeous place to live.  The winters were a little boring, but we were lucky to have met in the springtime when the world was at our fingertips as far as outdoor activities go.  We could walk the boardwalk, hang out at the beach, go for a motorcycle ride or do what we liked best at the time, go kayaking on one of the rivers. 

It turned out that kayaking was the most relaxing things I had ever done.  Amidst the exhausting demands of ministry (I was a full-time youth director at the time), I needed an outlet to unwind.  We would paddle around, exploring the low country of the Carolinas.  We would time the tides just right so we'd never have to paddle upstream against the tide.  (Smart hubby!) 

It was beautiful!  The trees in the background with Spanish Moss hanging low, the old Southern plantation homes along the river to gaze at as we paddled.  My blood pressure dropped a few points each time we pushed off. 

We did have our fair share of  funny incidents.  Including the times when we'd see a small alligator pop up out of the water, or just see his eyes gazing at us.  (Supposedly, according to hubby, they are scared of kayaks due to the Native American boating traditions.  I don't know if he made that up to make me feel better or not!)  A time or two, we also had to dodge a snake falling out of a tree.  Needless to say, I never got out to do some swimming in the water!  I also dropped hubby's sunglasses into the creek at one point, which I thought were a cheap pair.  He told me later that they were his new designer-brand glasses.  (Oh, young love!) 

Kayaking turned out to be what I liked to call my "Three Hour Vacation."  I have always wanted to have that inscribed on the side of my kayak.  It's the most relaxing three hours I can think of.  The inscription reminds me of one of my favorite things to do near water--check out the boat names.  I've seen some funny ones over the years, including a gigantic boat in Annapolis named the "Minerella" with a literal helicopter on the top, aptly named the "Glass Slipper."  I've seen many named after women or places or funny sayings.  Doing a Google search, I found these beauties: 

She Got The House
Seas The Day
Fishizzle
Reel Therapy
Unsinkable II
Taco The Town
Ctrl+Alt+Delete
My Other Boat Is Also A Boat
FahrFrumWurken
Bacon In The Sun
Sea-battical
Knot For Sail
Liquid Asset
Row Vs. Wade
Missing Peace
One More Toy
Grounds 4 Divorce
Sails Call

Many of these could tell their own story if we let them.  My favorite that I saw recently is below.  Life's A Journey.  Whether we're courting our future husband or just on a three-hour vacation, it's important to take time out from life to rest, relax and enjoy someone's company on a sea-battical.  Just bacon in the sun...



Monday, October 15, 2018

In need of editing for your project, proposal, paper or grant?

Photo by Freddy Castro
Do you have a project, proposal, document or college paper in need of editing?  Need a little help writing content for your blog, website, or business social media account?

Ever thought of searching for a grant to grow your business or finance your dreams?

I can help!

As a freelance writer, I have written and published articles and chapters in a book, as well as ministry curriculum.  I am currently a content editor for the Deeply Rooted curriculum series by http://fourfivesix.org/. I have a passion for writing and editing and a goal to expand my freelance writing and help others to improve their pieces of writing and grow their businesses.  See below for details:

Need help editing or proof-reading your papers, proposals, documents or college papers?  Need a lesson written for youth or preteen ministry?  Help with content for a retreat or youth group lesson?
$15/hour

Research/writing/and follow-up on Grants for you or your business:
$20/hour

Contact Alisa Laska, alisalaska14@gmail.com

I look forward to partnering with you to make your writing the best it can be,

Alisa Laska

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bullying



This Summer I was a reader for Jonathan's new book, and I wanted to pass along the information about it because it is an excellent book on the topic.  He uses his own experiences as well as his many years ministering to youth and parents to craft a well-written book that speaks to so many hurting teens and children and those who seek to help them.  Check out the rest of the blog for info on the book and how to order it.  Let's do our part to stop bullying in its tracks.

Parents and teachers would love to help hurting kids, but the truth is they don’t know how.

Why? The reason is quite simple: bullying has completely transformed in less than a decade.

Today bullying has no boundaries. When the bell rings, kids might leave their school campus, but they can never escape the other world, a world where mockers and intimidators thrive. Ironically, they carry a gateway to that world right in their pockets, because they see that world as an avenue of escape… but in reality, it’s putting them in bondage.

In The Bullying Breakthrough (Shiloh Run Press, November 2018) author and youth culture expert Jonathan McKee provides real-world help for parents, teachers, and youth leaders who often feel ill-equipped to deal with today’s bullying culture.

Check out his book on Amazon

Dr. Jim Burns describes Jonathan’s new book as “both disturbing and incredibly helpful.”

Author Josh McDowell calls it "Jonathan's most vulnerable and insightful book yet! An eye-opening peek into the world of bullying today and what we can actually do to prevent it."

Social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn claims this is “Jonathan’s most important book so far,” describing it as “an essential guide to preventing and stopping bullying behaviors.”

With chapters including, Digital Hurt, The Escape Key, Meet the Principal, Real-World Solutions, and more, McKee shares his personal story of pain and offers a sobering glimpse into the rapidly changing world of the bullied. With more than 20 years of experience working with teens and studying youth culture, McKee provides helpful ways to connect with kids, open doors of dialogue, and give kids the encouragement they need and the validation they’re searching for. . .too often in all the wrong places. Parents and youth leaders—anyone who interacts with kids—truly need this book.

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket, and the new fiction book, Bystander about a school shooting on a high school campus. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com.  And for youth workers on his other website  https://thesource4ym.com/Jonathan along with his wife, Lori, and their three kids live in California.   



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Coffee Person

Photo by: Alisa Laska
A friend of mine said one day recently, "I don't know how parents of toddlers can get through the day without multiple cups of coffee."  I wholeheartedly agreed.

For most of my life, I would have smiled and went on with the day, not really agreeing but wishing I did.  You see, I never used to like coffee. Shocking, right?  The tase of it made me think of sour beans and the caffeine made me shake and kept me up at night.  Coffee was just not my friend.  However, I always wished that I liked it, since coffee is such a part of our culture.  Everyone drinks it, everyone talks about it, there are so many flavors and coffee shops and special cups and, well, you get the picture.

And then I had kids.

It wasn't until my second child had turned two that coffee turned around for me.  She still doesn't really like to sleep through the night.  She'll have nightmares or random cries or make noise or whatever it is that wakes me in the middle of the night.  Sometimes multiple times.  Don't even get me started on the nights she is sick or getting sick and she wakes up literally six or more times...

Another contribution to my newly-found interest in coffee is this place:  The Lobby Coffee Bar
I love it.  I've spent many days here writing, editing, emailing or just hanging out with the hubby.  Located at Chesapeake Church, The Lobby supports local mission work to end hunger and also mission work in Honduras.  Who wouldn't love to go somewhere where the profits help others?

Coffee snuck up on me, but now it's a full-blown thing.  I can't get through my work days without it and other days I'm just tired.  Also, it's Autumn and the Pumpkin Spice and Brown Sugar Lattes are out, so, there is that.

Coffee, you have corrupted me, what can I say?  Anyone want to meet up for a cup?



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tired in the waiting

Photo by Annie Spratt
Those of you who know me well know that I've been going through a mid-life crisis of sorts.  (No, I haven't gone out and bought a red sports car...yet...)  After a season of ministry, I am in a season of waiting, wondering, dreaming and praying about what I will do next for my career.  I haven't just been sitting around.  I have been momming, writing, editing, teaching and serving.  I am loving all of these experiences, and I can see God working in all of them. These "mini-callings" are shaping me and growing me for my next career, I am sure.

But, I can't help the wanting-to-know.  I am patient, but only for so long, and then I just wish that God would spell it out for me.  Like, if he'd hire a sky-writer and write it across the sky, that would be good enough for me.  :)  I keep having these moments where I think I've figured it out, along with the many reasons God has asked me to wait.  I feel like it will be a huge "aha" moment where I will know why God chose that path for me.  But, maybe it won't be.  It's hard to tell.  Those couple of false starts recently have caused me to realize that sometimes God just calls us to wait.  Not only to wait, but to be content in the waiting.  To pray for contentment if we don't have it, and to rest in knowing that he has it all in his timing.

This week, two verses popped up in my life about this topic.  As Margaret Feinberg so aptly put it, this is the "sacred echo,"  when God repeats something in several ways or places in our lives.  The first was this verse from the Message version of Romans 8:26-28,

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  That's why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good." 

I love the part where we get tired in the waiting and God's spirit is right alongside of us, helping us along. He knows our wordless sighs, our aches and groans, and turns them into prayers. How many times have we come before God not even knowing what to say?  We lay our hearts out before him and the Spirit prays for us.  The spirit keeps us present before God.

The last line captivates me, knowing that every detail of my life of love for God is worked into something good.  I may not be doing something huge for him at the moment, but every little detail of my life is something he can use for His glory.  How amazing is that?

The other echo came during a leadership class at church last night.  Our pastor reminded us that we just need to keep going while we are waiting.  Waiting is not a passive thing, where we get to just lie down on the job.  No.  We can do as the Psalmist wrote in chapter five, verse three:

"In the morning, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly."  

I will choose to wait expectantly.  I will pray and wait and dream big dreams for God.  And in the waiting, I will move and act and serve and be and do.

I am tired in the waiting, but I will wait expectantly, Lord, with palms outstretched and the eyes of my heart wide open.