Lessons from beginner league basketball

During the past week I have served as a beginner league basketball coach for one thirty minute practice session and for one game.  This is my first time coaching a team since I coached at Ninety Six High School and Greenwood High School in the 1980s.  I have never coached a beginner league basketball team or a basketball team of any kind.  My team has seven players that all have some connection to Connie Maxwell Children’s Home.  What a fun experience and a great time to try to recall some tips from my coaching and teaching physical education days.

Experiences of the past week have also been a time to learn new lessons and be reminded of things from basketball that apply to life.  Here are some of those lessons/reminders.  Think on these things:

  1.  We all need an assistant coach or a person that will be there with us.
  2.  Be willing to wait your turn.  All seven players could not play every minute of the game.
  3. While waiting your turn, cheer others on that are in the game.
  4. Do your best.  Your best and my best may look different.  Do YOUR best.
  5. Always know where the ball is.
  6. Time outs are good.
  7. Know when to play offense and when to play defense.
  8. There are many people and a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to make things possible.
  9. Know who is on your team.
  10. Teamwork is important.
  11. Be a good sport.
  12. It is good to have people who help us follow the rules.  They may not have on black and white shirts but they are important.
  13. Know how much time is on the clock.
  14. Don’t hog the ball.  Be willing to pass.
  15. Learn from others.
  16. The people in the stands are valuable.
  17. Let others know you are there for them.
  18. Get up quickly when you fall down.
  19. Watch where you are going.
  20. Learn from your mistakes.
  21. Know when the game is over.
  22. Be ready for the next game.

2016 Theme – A Singing Heart

I guess a snowy, cold day when work responsibilities were cancelled is a good time to publish a blog after more than a year of silence.  So here goes …………….

In recent years I have had a focus word or verse for the upcoming year.  For example in 2015 it was a focus word – intentional.  In 2014 my focus verse was from Psalm 32:8 – The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.  2014 was the year of my move back to Ninety Six,SC and a new job at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home.  What a rock that verse was for me to stand on during the time of selling a house, buying a house and starting a new job!

While anticipating the beginning of 2016 I could not settle in on a verse or word that I felt would be a focus for the new year.  Even as the first week of 2016 ended there was still no focus word, verse or song. Maybe this year would be different.

Then a coworker gave me a card with the saying – “Every singe day, do something that makes your heart sing.” – Marie Wieder.  That quote quickly became a theme for 2016.  It is on the front of my 2016 journal. I even had a bracelet made with this quote on it.

I had never heard of the author and decided to learn more about her.  Marie is a speaker, an author of 15 books, a global thought leader and CEO and Founder of Dream University. Dream University helps people identify and realize their dreams.

This quote has helped me reflect on my days and identify some things, people or situations that made my heart sing that day.  As I look back through my journal my daily “heart songs” have come from time with family or friends, enjoying nature, or being energized by new work responsibilities.

I plan to continue to use this quote as a guide for 2016.  I believe it will help me to experience deeper joy and will lead me to cherish those moments more fully.  Even this morning as I sat looking out the window at the snow and drinking coffee, my heart was singing with joy in appreciation for the gift of a new day and the extra beauty of a snow fall.

If you do not have a focus, anchor verse or theme to guide you in 2016 I hope you will consider finding one that will lead you to more fully experience the gift of life and opportunities that God gives us each day.

Christmas letter 2014

Dear family & friends,

This is a first – I have never written a Christmas letter. But 2014 was that kind of year so here goes ….
July 1 sums up much of the year – closed on the sale of my home of 20 years in Columbia, closed on the purchase on a new home in Ninety Six and signed employment papers to become Director of Volunteer Services at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. Another point of significance for me is that date was also exactly four years since I turned in my resignation at the SC Baptist Convention. Wow! Now for some of the back story and fuller details.

In 2013 I felt God stirring my heart to move closer to family in Ninety Six and Greenwood. I gradually started preparing my home to be put on the market. In May 2014 I put my house on the market and within two weeks it had sold. As part of anticipating a move I also started looking for a home in Ninety Six or Greenwood and submitted a resume for a full-time position at Connie Maxwell that would become vacant in 2014. All of this came together on July 1.

Let me say God is faithful. During my four years as a consultant God provided and stretched me. There was always a core piece of my ministry – Sumter FBC for two years, North American Mission Board for 18 months, and Ft. Inn FBC for one year. Beyond this core piece there were just enough contracts with other churches and missions organizations. I will be able to keep the consulting LLC going on the side as time allows during future months.

Family update: During my year of part-time transitional work at Ft. Inn FBC I was able to enjoy extra time with my nephew and his family in Simpsonville. What a joy! Now that I live in Ninety Six I am getting to have regular time with my Ninety Six family. Saturday a.m. breakfast together has become an almost weekly treat. I also get to take my great niece to preschool three days a week in Greenwood. Living in the area has allowed me to visit my mother more often at Morningside assisted living. Getting older has caused me to treasure family even more. Many of my friends are like family and I have tried to stay in touch with these friends that are scattered throughout SC and NC.

My theme verse for 2014 is Psalm 32:8 – I will teach you and tell you the way to go and how to get there: I will give you good counsel and I will watch over you.

You have been an important part of my journey. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement during 2014. I pray that you will experience God’s peace and joy in a very personal way during this holy season.

Joyfully His

Settling In

My March blog was titled “Anticipating a Move”.  That move has been made.  On July 1, 2014 I closed on my home in Columbia, closed on my new home in Ninety Six and signed employment papers for a new position at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home In Greenwood.

Now four months later, I am feeling like I am getting “settled in”.  Here’s some reasons why:

  • First visits to new dentist and new eye doctor
  • New beautician
  • Enjoying new running routes
  • First property tax notice received on new home
  • All boxes unpacked that need to be unpacked
  • Experienced a change of seasons
  • Finally ordered and received checks with new address
  • Learned to shop at some new stores
  • Bought a NS maroon and gold long sleeve tshirt
  • Have now been to two Ninety Six Wildcat football games (my alma mater and where I coached for a few years during my teaching years)
  • Used both my air conditioner and heater
  • All addresses changes made, I think.  And by the way – how can the junk mail people find out my address without the going through all the address change stuff that has to be done for the important mail.
  • Found two grocery item treasures in Greeenwood – Kombucha and Raw Milk
  • Have been on several of the famous golf cart rides
  • Seeing family every week and loving it
  • Crossing paths with people from 30 years ago and sometime recognizing them and remembering their name

One of the pictures that I bought for my new home says – “Life is a journey.  Enjoy it!”  And what a journey these past months have been!  The journey will continue …… in a new home and new ministry.


Easter 2014 playlist

Music leads me to worship in powerful and personal ways.  Last year during Holy Week I posted my Easter 2013 playlist.  I’m making a few additions and posting it again it hopes that you will find it helpful as you focus on our Savior during this special week.

  • At the Cross – Hillsong
  • Because of your Love – Phil Wickham
  • Christ is Risen – The Brilliance
  • How Deep the Father’s Love – Phillips, Craig & Dean
  • Lead me to the Cross – Hillsong United
  • O the Blood – Gateway Worship
  • The Power of the Cross – Keith & Kristyn Getty
  • What a Savior – Lara Story
  • The Wonderful Cross – Michael W. Smith
  • Worthy is the Lamb – Hillsong
  • Your Cross – Elevation Worship
  • Christ is Risen – Keith & Kristyn Getty
  • The Cross is my Confession – Kari Jobe
  • The Cross of Christ – Darlene Zschech

Anticipating a move

Even as I wrote the title to this post I felt a bit of anxiety.  I have no clue how to do this or what this means.  But I am anticipating a move from Columbia, SC to Greenwood County at some point in 2014.  Now to reflect a bit and briefly catch you up on this process ….

As I read back through my 2013 journal, I started to notice a common theme and a progression in this theme.  At the beginning of 2013 I wrote that I was beginning to sense a desire to move closer to family in Greenwood and Ninety Six in 3-5 years.  A few months later I wrote that the move would be in 2-3 years.  Then later in my journal I read 1-2 years.  Before 2013 ended I had written that I was feeling like I need to make plans to move back to Greenwood or Ninety Six in 2014.  What a journey!

Now it is March 1, 2014.  During the first two months of 2014 I have focused on de-cluttering and making improvements in my Columbia home.  This is the only home I have ever owned and have lived here for 20 years.  There have been mixed emotions along the way as I have begun to prepare to sell a home that I love and is filled with special memories.  Not to mention moving away from many special people and things in Columbia.

On the other end of this anticipated move is a mother in an assisted living in Greenwood, family members in Ninety Six and Greenwood, and this anticipated move would put me miles closer to family in Simpsonville.  I have met with a realtor, explored housing options and visited my first “house for sell” yesterday.

The consulting work that I do now involves working from a home office and traveling.  This can be done from any location.  And who knows, there may be a ministry in the Greenwood area that I need to be more involved in.

So why not move closer to family at this stage of our lives.  I believe that God has placed this desire in my heart.  I am counting on His leadership and timing each step of the way.  My theme verse for this anticipated move has become Psalm 32:8 – “I will teach you and tell you the way to go and how to get there.  I will give you good counsel and I will watch over you.”

I would love your prayers as I seek God’s next steps.  I’m certainly no expert on selling a home or buying a home.  I’ll be counting on God and a lot of knowledgeable friends.  If you know of someone that may be looking to buy a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home near the city in Columbia let me know.  I’ll keep you posted from time to time as the journey unfolds. And let’s all remember that “The journey is part of the gift”.

Reporting In: One Year Shopping Fast

Near the end of 2012 I heard a Midtown Fellowship friend talk about her shopping fast.  I began to consider that as something that would be helpful for me to do in 2013.  Here are some thoughts from my 2013 one year shopping fast.

  • This commitment was not about earning anything.
  • It was not about legalism or being right or wrong.
  • It was not an excuse to judge others who purchased clothes.
  • My definition of “clothing” has been any outer wear including running clothes, dress clothes, jeans, etc.
  • This was right for me in 2013.
  • Staying away from the mall and shops or entering with an intentional plan was a big help.
  • Deleting “sell” emails quickly or unsubscribing to emails from my favorite clothing stores also helped.
  • This intentional commitment has helped me to see the difference in wants and needs.
  • It has helped me to simplify life.
  • I have been able to avoid some of the consumer mentality of our society and realize that my personal happiness and worth is not based on purchasing material possessions.
  • It has been helpful in looking at how I spend/give/save my money.
  • Having an intentional plan has helped me avoid compulsive and reactionary shopping.
  • For the most part it has been a freeing experience.

I am glad to talk to you more about this but I also want to recommend you look at how others have intentionally found ways to declutter, simplify and live life with intentional priorities.  Maybe these will be helpful to you as you prepare for a new year.

  1. Jen Hatmaker  – book entitled Seven.  Her family focused on seven areas of excess, one a month for seven months.
  2. Katie Welborn blog – katiewelborn.wordpress.com/2012/7/24/
  3. Joshua Becker – http://www.becomingminalist.com
  4. Dara Kurtz – book entitled Less is More:  How a Shopping Fast Can Help You Find Your Family.
  5. Celeste Palermo – 40 Day Spending Fast.  http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/topics/deeper-faith/fasting/

The Consulting Journey Continues

Almost three years ago I ordered business cards with “Debbie McDowell, LLC,  Missional Church Consultant”.  So what does that mean?  My short explanation is “it looks different every month”.   A longer explanation includes phrases like “filling in where I am needed for as long as I am needed out of my passions and experiences”, “living out my calling to go deeper with fewer” or “helping individuals, churches and organizations take the next step in Great Commission impact”.

For me the consulting journey has looked like this. God has provided a core longer term opportunity and multiple shorter term contracts during these three years.

My first longer term opportunity was serving in a transitional staff role at Sumter FBC for 23 months.  During those months I usually traveled to Sumter three times a week.  For thirteen months I served alongside a transitional pastor.  The final ten months of ministry was after the church had called a new pastor and then filled my transitional staff position with a full-time staff person.

Just as that role was transitioning to a full-time staff person I began a contract with the LoveLoud team of the North American Mission Board.  This contract is a maximum average of ten days a month and ends in October.  It focuses on two main projects – one related to volunteer mobilization and one in ministry evangelism.

Now as the NAMB contract is concluding soon, God has provided an opportunity that started today – transitional staff at Fountain Inn FBC.  I will be working with this church family 30 hours a week for at least six months.  My ministry focus areas will include preschool, children, Sunday School, prayer, missions, greeter ministry, …………   I am excited about this new step in the journey.

To go along with these three longer term core pieces I have also had shorter contracts with Lexington Baptist Association, Taylors FBC, Harris BC, Mt. Horeb UMC, WMU – writing for Missions Mosaic, Grace BC in Florence and Sumter, Alice Drive BC, Stewardship Development, E3 Foundation, and Saluda River BC.

More than anything my consulting journey has been a testimony of God’s faithful provision and His perfect timing.  It may be difficult for me to describe “missional church consultant” but I am confident that I have seen God’s glory on this journey.

Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

I do not usually blog using a chapter from a book but this is a good time to do that.  I am reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. The first sentence in Chapter One – “Christian spirituality, without an integration of emotional health, can be deadly – to yourself, your relationship with God and the people around you”.  Most of us can relate to this statement directly and/or indirectly.

In Chapter Two he identifies the top ten symptoms indicating if someone is suffering from emotionally unhealthy spirituality.  They are:

1. Using God to run from God.

2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear.

3. Dying to the wrong things.

4. Denying the past’s impact on the present.

5. Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments.

6. Doing for God instead of being with God.

7. Spiritualizing away conflict.

8. Covering brokenness, weakness and failure.

9. Living without limits.

10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey.

I know that this list is an oversimplification of a complex issue.  I know that it is dangerous to throw out this kind of list without full context of the book. I know that some of us will apply this list to another person’s life in a judgmental way. (refer back to #10).

I also know that this book is being an insightful read. I can personally identify with this list. I am on a journey toward a healthier spirituality and being more fully who Christ created me to be.  I am glad to know that other sisters and brothers in Christ are on this journey of transformation too.

Let The School Bells Ring

There is just something about a new school year.  Even though I am not teaching and do not have any children starting school, there seems to be a special excitement in the air, at least for most people.  I know as a student and then as a teacher, I always looked forward to a new school year. Fresh starts are good.  New beginnings energize and challenge us to the next level.

A new school year is not just about new classes, new clothes and new notebooks, it is about new relationships.  I know how much relationships with my teachers influenced my life.  Relationships  – with administrators, staff, teachers, students, parents, bus drivers, coaches and others.

It is these relationships that really make a difference.  Education is more than a profession.  It is the opportunity to invest in lives that can make an impact for generations to come. The teachers and administrators that I know personally see the importance of their role in individual lives, in families and in society.  Schools are truly a daily mission field where the light of Jesus is shining through many  individuals.

For those of us who are not professionally involved in our education system, here are some things that we can consider doing:

1.  Pray regularly for our teachers, administrators, school boards, etc.  Choose specific educators that you know and commit to praying for them on a certain day of the week during the upcoming school year.  Let them know of your prayers.

2.  Prayerwalk schools.  Many churches prayerwalk local schools in August.  Great start.  Consider prayerwalking at other times of the year.

3.  Be involved as a school volunteer or in an after school mentoring program.

4.  Contribute to school supplies, snacks in teacher’s lounge, etc.

5.  Help a teacher prepare her classroom.

6.   Offer to keep the children of those who begin school and have no childcare for the week before students start.

7.  Prepare a meal for the teacher/administrator’s family.  Most faculty and staff work late these first weeks of school

8.  We can encourage our church or business to adopt a school and begin an ongoing partnership with them.  Begin this process with initial conversations with the school administrator.

9.  Write encouraging cards to faculty and staff throughout the year.

10. Come up with your own idea. ____________________________________

And just for fun, try what I did one year – have a back to school banana split party for all the ladies in your neighborhood.  Great way to build relationships!

Thank you educators!

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