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Knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement from a Christian perspective is my goal. I post a weekly commentary, which could be about world events or the events of my week. Other days I might share stories, recipes, homemaking tips, book reviews, political talk, biblical truth, or other blogs and websites I like. This blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Monday, December 28, 2009

DO CRUMBS REALLY MATTER?

Every time I'm bothered lately, it's for the same reason...people can't relax. They obsess about everything and fuss about things that could easily be overlooked. It's hard to be yourself around someone like that. The minute they walk into the room you feel uncomfortable, like you have to watch everything you say and do for fear that you might set that person off.

I was that kind of person years ago. Maybe that's why I'm bothered by it now. I was very controlling, I fussed about things that weren't important and I had a comment for everything. I still have a lot of opinions, but now I have to be pushed before I'll express them directly. When the same injustice keeps occurring, I'll make my opinion known, but I'm more likely to grab a pen and start writing than I am to get into an argument.

The older I get, the more I realize that it's just not worth it. People have enough to worry about without being nagged by people who can't relax. The bible has some clear warnings about minding our own business and letting God do the correcting. Of course there are times when we do need to speak, but I've learned that those times are few and far between and should always be preceded by careful thought and lots of prayer.

I'm not talking about parenting. That kind of guidance is certainly needed. I'm talking about fussing over things that aren't important. In the grand scheme of life do crumbs really matter? Is it worth disrupting a peaceful dinner for the sake of a crumb-free table? Is there any sense to arguing about garbage? I know a guy that gets mad if someone throws something in the garbage right after he changes the bag, as if there's a waiting period that must be followed. I guess he needs to enjoy that empty can. He makes garbage more important than people every time he fusses about it.

People are more important than things. A close friend said those very words to me recently. A few years ago she became very sick and was faced with the reality of death. Since then her priorities have changed. Now she doesn't care about her house being perfect and she doesn't get upset when her routine is interrupted. There was a time when I couldn't drop in on her unexpectedly. If I did, I was met at the door by an unwelcoming glare.

Today she's more relaxed because being sick made her realize how fragile and fleeting life is. She doesn't want to waste her time being mad at people when things don't go her way. Those things are less important now. She thinks of her sickness as a blessing. It changed her for the better. And people notice the change. They like the person she's become... a more relaxed, more pleasant version of herself.

How do you know if you're someone who needs to relax? What are your family members and friends telling you? Keep a journal and write down every time you fuss about something that could easily be overlooked. Might you be better off to pray about the situation than to voice constant opinions?

What if we took that same energy and fussed about the people in our lives? What if we would come home and talk to our kids, ask them how their day went, instead of fussing about the way the house looks? What if we put more effort into noticing people and their good qualities, praising them for the work they have done instead of harping on their weaknesses and what they haven't done.

If we can't relax we can't enjoy the ones we love. We'll be more bothered by them than anything. Some day those people won't be with us anymore. All we'll have is memories that we wish we could go back and change. We'll regret all the time we wasted fussing about messes, crumbs and interruptions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

CATCHING MY BREATH

"Lay aside your agenda for a moment. Stop striving to relieve yourself of the burdens that plague you. Rest, dear sister. Rest in the secure arms of your heavenly Father, who set your story in motion before time began."

Today I decided to take a break from all the "doing" and just "be". I'm always amazed at how God brings just the right book into my life at exactly the time I need to read its wisdom. My latest divinely appointed book is Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. The above quote was taken from it.

I've been knocking myself out with accomplishing things. I'm falling into the trap of believing that my value comes from what I do and how busy I am. That's the message of our culture. But it's a lie. Today I realized what I've been doing and I decided to spend the day catching my breath and hanging out with God. He reminded me that my value comes from who I am, not what I do, and who I am is a beloved child of God. Today He invited me to rediscover that.

Chapter 10 of Alsup's book is a chapter every woman should read. It's about finding our identity in Christ. She starts the chapter with this question: "Where do you find your identity? If you have a blog or a MySpace page, what does it reveal about how you define yourself? How do you introduce yourself when someone asks, "What do you do?"

A few days ago someone asked if I was working. I said, "Just at home." Why I felt the need to add the "just" to my response is another example of being tainted by the culture I live in, a culture that has shunned the value of homemaking. The message I hear day after day is that if I'm not busy outside my home, then I'm not valuable. It's difficult to ignore that message even though I know it's untrue. So I decide that I'd better get busy. And then I make sure to let people know that I'm busy so I can prove my worth.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only woman who does this. As you're reading this you might be having a revelation of your own. Maybe you, too, need to catch your breath and connect to the real source of your identity--the one who created you.

It is God's opinion of me that matters, not what others think of me. I know that, but I still get sidetracked into thinking I need the approval of people. I think it's something many of us do. "Many Christian women weigh their words, obsess over their clothes, and attempt to control big and small circumstances around them in an effort to build their reputation. They are constantly on guard for new strategies to make others think better of them," says Alsup.

Talking about how busy we are and how successful we are is one way to build our reputation with people. I know a woman who talks constantly about her business and her accomplishments. She even mentions dollar amounts and her latest awards or promotions. Just listening to her makes me feel as if she's trying to impress me. But I'm not the one she should be impressing. I have no power to change her life or make it better.

God is the one we need to impress. I need to remember that, too. I'm also guilty of trying to make others think better of me. But the bible says that we must let go of our reputations and rights. We are called to humble ourselves, to forget about ourselves and instead serve God and serve others. We are actually supposed to think of others as better than ourselves. Not an easy thing to do. Especially in a culture that is so self-absorbed.

My sister is a professional artist and she struggles with the promotional aspect of her business. She knows that in order to sell her work she has to promote it. She has to get it out there for people to see. But she doesn't like promoting herself. She would rather hand that job over to someone else. But paying someone to do that wouldn't be practical.

I think it all comes down to our motives. If we promote ourselves and our accomplishments to impress others, that's not right. But if we promote ourselves in order to pay the bills or serve God in some way, that's a different story. Artists have to advertise their work if they want to sell it. That's just the way it is. What matters is that we keep our focus on God and His approval. Trying to win the approval of people is a waste of time, and it's downright exhausting. We need to rest in the secure arms of our heavenly Father. That's the only place that we can catch our breath and have peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SIMPLIFY THE SEASON

This is the first I've been inspired to write since taking a break in late summer. Don't you love the weeks leading up to Christmas? I guess not everyone does. I hear so many complaints about having so much to do and so little time. Some people get very stressed out at this time of year. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Simplicity helps me to enjoy the pre-Christmas rush. I'm finding that the more I simplify my life the more I enjoy it. The less pressure I put on myself, the more I can live in the moment and enjoy what's happening now instead of fretting about all I have yet to do. I can listen to my children without distraction, have time to do things for myself, and recognize the needs of others then do something to help.

One of the keys to simplicity is to love people and not things. Especially at Christmas we get so caught up in making things perfect. We want to find the perfect gifts, decorate our homes like Martha would, wrap the presents with style, and buy the perfect outfit for every event. We wear ourselves out on all the pretty details then have no energy to enjoy the company.

I simplified my tree this year. Instead of dragging out all the boxes of ornaments, I pulled apart some cotton balls and covered the tree with snow. My Christmas card list isn't what it used to be. Only people who've been a meaningful part of my life will get a card this year. I didn't spend much time searching for gifts. And I'm planning to wrap them all with my friend Tam. We're going to make tacos, play Christmas music and sip cocoa or hot tea. My wrapping paper isn't color-coordinated and I won't pay much attention to making perfect creases or disguising the tape. I'll be too busy enjoying the company of my good friend.

Simplifying things frees up our time so we can magnify the people in our lives. Some people have it backwards. They magnify the things and simplify the people. Then they wonder why they feel so worn out and unhappy. My fondest memories of Christmas are not about how pretty the packages were wrapped or how my mom decorated the house.

What I remember is sitting on the stairs Christmas morning, whispering with my sister and brothers, impatiently waiting for Mom and Dad to wake up. I remember caroling on a snowy night in Pillow. I remember how my Dad loved egg nog. And the excitement of Christmas Eve when one by one we were allowed to open just one of our gifts. It's the company that I remember, not so much the things.

Of course festive things do help to make Christmas special. Ribbon candy has a special place in my memories and the warm flickering glow of a candle-lit church as we sang Silent Night. Christmas without candles, music, decorations and lit up trees is hard to imagine. But if we're over-stressed this time of year, we might be investing too much in those things. Simplify the season and have more time for the people you love.

Friday, August 21, 2009

EARTH SHOES AND MOOD RINGS

Do you remember the ugly shoes we wore in the seventies? They were called earth shoes and of course they were brown. Brown must have been a popular color back then. I also had a pair of brown platform shoes with a big yellow sunflower on them. Remember mood rings? I wonder if they work for women going through menopause. We'd probably have to rename them rainbow rings.

I've been feeling nostalgic lately. I've been wishing for my earth shoes back and my mood ring, just so I can remember wearing them. I'd also like to have the clothes I wore from fifth grade and up. My mom made me this dress in fifth grade that I loved so much I wore it for my class pictures. Wonder how far I'd have to dig to find that? The dress was reversible with stars on it. One day I could have a blue dress with white stars and the next day a red one. Think of the money and time we could save on laundry if reversible clothes came back in style.

It's amazing to me how things go in and out of style. And then years later we see those things again. Who ever thought that afros would come back? Men actually sat through the perming process in the seventies just to have a cool hairstyle. That's how far we'll go to be in the groove. Will the word groovy ever come back in style? I think Greg Brady originated that one. Or was it Marcia?

I had this star neclace that I wore in middle school. I'm still looking for one like it. Whenever I see something that reminds me of my past I try to buy it. I like having familiar things around me, especially things that I once loved. On the top of my wish list right now is my favorite doll. Her name is Baby Beans. She was made in 1970, so I would have been about eight years old when I begged my parents to buy me one for Christmas. I saw a few on ebay but I'm hoping to discover her at a yard sale one day so I can get excited about the serendipity of finding her again.

My mom made me a doll once. Today, I would treasure that doll even more than my beloved baby beans. The doll had yellow yarn for hair and was at least three feet tall with a blue dress. If only I had taken better care of those things. I'm not sure where the doll ended up, probably in a garbage can beside baby beans after she was tore open and the beans fell out.

My sister had a pet rock...or was it a pet stick? Whoever thought of that crazy fad must have laughed all the way to the bank and back. Let's see, do you think pet acorns would ever catch on?

I also want my metal lunch kettle back. It had the wildest hot pink flowers on it. Remember flower power? I use to write "flower power" on my notebook, my walls, even a grey suitcase I had was jazzed up with pink paint and the words flower power. It's funny how you reach a certain age and feel the need to personalize everything you own. My daughter's going through that now. After rearranging her bedroom and taking her bed off its frame and onto the floor, she now wants to paint the walls purple. My sister had a similar love for purple in high school. I recall dark purple shag carpeting and purple flowered walls.

Remember the game mystery date? Or leapin letters? Board games are very nostalgic. Old Maids, pick up stix, chinese jumprope, and jacks. I've been looking for a chinese jumprope so I can show my daughter the way we used to stretch that rope around our ankles and play games I can't remember. We also put the rope on our hands and passed it back and forth with finger tricks like Jacob's ladder. I couldn't do it now.

I want my Saturday Night Fever album back and my record player. I want my poster of a woman releasing a dove on the beach. "If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you it's yours" or something like that was the poem written on it. I want my fiber optic night light that glowed pink on the tip of each strand, and my black-light poster. Bedrooms were the coolest in the sixties and seventies. Lava lamps and beaded curtains, smiley faces and peace signs. My sister had a Donny Osmond poster on her door. I liked David Cassidy from The Partridge Family.

All these things are special because they're part of who I once was. I wouldn't want to go back, but I want to remember the life I had. Our childhood and teen years are so filled with special memories. I treasure my diary from 1977-78. I get the biggest kick out of reading it now. Was that really me? Did I really think like that? It makes you realize how much you've matured and thank goodness! I'd rather be a grown up, but it's neat to remember the things we once thought were important like earth shoes and mood rings.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

LIVING THE FRESH-BREWED LIFE Book Commentary

"I see women all the time who seem joyless and lonely--I can see it in their expressionless eyes. They stare straight ahead or look down, walking forward but not going anywhere. They are terrified that life is going to find them."

The above quote is part of the introduction to Fresh-Brewed Life: A Stirring invitation to Wake Up Your Soul, my latest great book find.  It's available at Amazon.  The book was given to me by a friend who said that it's her favorite book. I just love when people recommend books to me or give me a book they've read as a gift. I'm already planning to read it again because I fell in love with it too. The best way I can describe it is to say that it's a book about all the things that women secretly think but don't talk about.

Fresh-Brewed Life is a journey of awakenings: to God, to ourselves, and to others. Author Nicole Johnson has masterfully written an invitation to wake up and embrace life. Just as the smell and taste of fresh-brewed coffee awakens our sleepiness, this book will inspire you to stop sleepwalking through life, to wake up to a more exciting, more passionate fullness of life.

"Wake up! We need you as an alive and awake woman, listening and contributing," says Johnson. "Wake up your creative genius and let it out into the world. Wake up to your power and use it wisely. Wake up to your pain and investigate it. Wake up the dull old parts that are hiding from the light. Wake up to love and let it flood through you."

And what's the first step toward this fresh new way of living? "Surrendering to God is the key that unlocks the door to the life you want." Our wake up call begins in a relationship with the one in whom we began. Because only God can rouse our sleepy souls. Only God can tell us what we most want to know. Johnson discovered that life isn't about being busy and keeping it all together, it's about trusting in the One who can keep it all together.

But how do we surrender? Where do we start? Having a relationship with God requires a commitment of time. How can we discipline ourselves to make time for God? For Johnson, the answer was journaling. She learned to bring her heart to God by writing down her struggles. "Journaling became for me the tangible representation of my relationship with God and others, and my wrestlings with the world around me." But journaling should never be a pressure. We shouldn't beat ourselves up if we can't stick to it with consistency. Just don't give up on finding quiet time with God.

I still haven't disciplined myself to write in my journal every day. Sometimes weeks go by without an entry, but I communicate with God every day through prayer and bible reading. I think that's the important part, just having God in our thoughts. For some reason, I think about God most when I'm driving. The sun on my face, traveling through the beauty of His creation, and cottony clouds against a clear blue sky arouse in me a knowing that God exists.

By journaling, I make time for God and I get to know myself better too. But what kind of things should we write in our journals? Should we use it like a diary? Johnson suggests that we write down our longings, those empty places in our lives that haven't been filled. Every woman longs for something. I long to be a newspaper columnist and some day an author who brings encouragement and hope to women. I long to go to Tuscany for my dream vacation. And I long to be known and loved by the people I love.

"Dreams and longings have a way of resurfacing," says Johnson. But we are masters at killing our dreams. Instead of participating on the field, we sit in the stands and watch or we stand on the sidelines criticizing ourselves and criticizing those who are reaching for their dreams. God gave us those longings for a reason. They are the map that will point the way Johnson says. Write down your longings. "When you are honest about the places in your soul that ache to be filled, you are right where God can tenderly reach in and touch the deepest parts of your heart."

Listen to the conversations of women and you'll learn that they have many longings. We want to be beautiful. We long to be appreciated. We want more passion and purpose. We want to be known, loved, and cherished. By "known" I don't mean famous. A woman needs someone to take the time to stop and really see her. Women long for more attention and affection. That's why they become addicted to romance novels and soap operas. But according to Johnson, God is the only one big enough to hold our longings. Apart from Him we will never be satisfied.

Every woman who's ever felt lonely or empty, who's ever wondered, "Is this all there is?" Every woman who right now feels that something is missing needs this book. Fresh Brewed Life is a masterpiece because it inspires a woman to become a masterpiece by listening to her longings, embracing her beauty, savoring her sexuality, enriching her relationships, and changing her world. And the key to doing those things is to let God in on your life.

We need God like we need a good cup of coffee. He's the only one who can satisfy our loneliness, fill our emptiness and wake up our souls. Without Him we can only sleepwalk through life with expressionless eyes, walking forward but not going anywhere.










Sunday, August 9, 2009

PATIENCE AND FAITH

"For I know the plans I have for you." says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope...when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me."--Jeremiah 29:11

As I'm writing this a song is playing in my head: The waiting is the hardest part. Maybe that's the title, Waiting. I don't know music like some do. Waiting is a universal problem. I don't like it myself, but I'm learning that it's a very important skill to have. The best example I can think of that shows the consequences of being impatient is credit card debt. I have a friend whom I've lost touch with that still owes me $80. When I reminded her many years ago she claimed she didn't remember borrowing the money. Now that's scary. A person like that could get into some major credit card debt.

Delayed gratification is a wonderful thing because we appreciate the thing we've waited for so much more than we do when we get it right away. Whatever happened to saving for the things we want. It's just too tempting to get out the plastic, have what we want now and worry about paying for it later. The downside is that we end up paying far more than the item is worth because of interest charges and we are burdened with the stress of unpaid debt. A stress that can bring us to homelessness, poverty, and shame.

I always hated owing someone money. It would bother me everyday until I paid it back. I'm grateful that I have that conviction and I'm discovering that God actually blesses patience. So many times when I want something but walk away from it instead of buying it, I will find that exact item later for a much lesser price. God knows the desires of my heart and He loves to give me even the smallest thing that I'm longing for. My most recent delayed purchase was a board game called Clue. My daughter and I like to play games when boredom hits. I've been wanting the game Clue for quite a while. I remember playing it at my cousin's house when I was a child. Well guess what I found at a yard sale on Friday? The game Clue in a box like new with every piece intact for the bargain price of one dollar.

I just love when that happens. I love to see the blessings of my faith. Some people might call that a coincidence but I know better because I've had things like that happen to me so many times that it defies the law of coincidence. The word coincidence suggests something rare and random, a total fluke. But when these flukes begin to occur on a regular basis we can no longer call them coincidence. We must acknowledge the power behind them.

Patience and faith bring so many blessings. But faith is more than just believing in God. It's believing that God knows each one of us personally and wants to bless us and help us. What difference does faith make in a person's life? Well first of all our faith determines where we will spend eternity. People who believe that life is over when they're dead don't really know that for sure because they haven't died yet. Eternity is a long time, too long to take a chance on spending it somewhere unpleasant.

Another difference faith makes is the quality of our lives on earth. I remember reading about a woman who feared losing her job because she worked on commission and the sales at her register were very low. Someone suggested that she pray and ask that God would give her favor with people so they would come to her register to pay for their purchases. She took the advice and was amazed. God did bless her with what she asked for. Her sales doubled, then tripled.

Faith is a journey. It's a day by day discovery of God and his goodness. I don't always think of praying about every problem. I still try to figure things out on my own. I want to reach a point where prayer is my first reaction to every problem. That's the kind of faith I want. Hannah Whitall Smith calls that kind of faith "the life on wings". Every time I see a bird with wings stretched motionless, floating on the wind, I'm reminded of that life on wings that I long for. What an amazing way to live. And that's the way God created us to live. But how many ever find it?

I'll tell you the story about someone who did find the life she longed for. I discovered a wonderful author, Jan Karon. Her book, The Mitford Bedside Companion was something else I discovered while yardsaling on Friday. To me the best part of that book is her essay at the beginning titled, "I Know The Plans I Have For You." She shares her life story of how she got started as a writer. She was working in advertising and feeling very unhappy in that career. She longed to write books. So she began to pray.

"What do you want me to do, Lord? And how am I to accomplish it?" was her plea to God. After two years of persistent prayer, God spoke to her heart and said, Go. And I will go with you. So she sold her house and moved to a mountain village in North Carolina with the intention of having a peaceful place to write. After wrestling with doubts and a serious case of writer's block, Jan Karon had a surprising mental image of a man walking down a village street. This inspired her to begin writing about a fictional Episcopal priest named Father Tim. She took the first two chapters of her writing to a local newspaper editor and soon she was a columnist. After writing two years worth of columns she had a complete book. That book was the first of a bestselling series of Mitford Years books.

And this is my favorite part of that story. Jan Karon, at the end of her essay, tells us why she shared her early struggles as a want-to-be writer: "I tell you all that in order to assure you of this: God has plans for you, too. His plans are for good. And if you trust Him, you have both a future and a hope. How do I know this to be utterly and absolutely true? Because I have lived it. And I am living it still."

Now there is a testimony to the power of faith. Patience and faith will greatly increase the quality of our lives. We only need to put them into practice.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BETTER TO BE ME

In my younger days I had a terrible habit. I compared myself to other women. No matter what I was accomplishing or how I felt about my appearance, there was always someone I was striving to be like. In the seventies, I wanted to be like a girl in my high school named Kerri. She was so put together. She wore the coolest outfits and had beautiful hair and a perfect smile. She even smelled wonderful. I asked her one day what perfume she wore and then went out and bought myself a bottle of "Ciara". It's still my favorite perfume. Fortunately, today I wear it because I like the smell, not because I want to be like Kerri.

I've learned that comparing myself to other women is just wrong for so many reasons. First of all, God created me to be myself. It must grieve Him when I'm not satisfied with who I am, as if to question his handiwork. It's like saying, "Why couldn't you do better than this, Lord?" When I want that girl's body or another girl's talent, I am coveting something that God gave to someone else. Not only that, but I devalue my own attributes which God chose for me to have.

Women are funny. They really are. I can't tell you how many times I have overheard a woman express dissatisfaction with her looks or abilities, and without realizing it, that same woman who sees so many flaws in herself is admired and envied by other women. I have a wonderful friend who I think is stunningly beautiful. But she must wear make-up to cover up some red patches on her face. This bothers her and she's very open about it. But she doesn't realize that while she's bothered by her imperfections, other women look at her and see flawless beauty they'd love to have.

I guess it's easy to focus on our flaws when we wake up every morning without make-up and see everything that needs work. It's also hard to ignore the constant pressure that women feel to look thin and beautiful like all those magazine covers that stare at us while we lay a weeks worth of food on the check out counter at the grocery store. We live in a society that is absolutely obsessed with beauty. So we get caught up in that obsession and we compare.

If I could go back to high school and do it over again, I wouldn't have wasted so much time wishing I was someone else. I'd go back confident in who I am. I'd remind myself every day of the abilities that God gave me and be thankful for them. I'd spend time improving my talents and being the best I can be instead of wishing for the abilities of others. And I would focus on all the physical characteristics that I like about myself. I'd take a compliment well and not try to shake it off as if I don't deserve it. I would love all the great things about me...my sense of humor, my smile, my brown eyes, my artistic talent, my creativity, and my sense of caring.

As I was writing that list of good qualities above, I almost felt uncomfortable. Why do we feel so uncomfortable in complimenting ourselves and talking about our good qualities yet we find it so easy to think about and talk about our flaws? God wants us to focus on the good, admirable qualities in ourselves and others. But we can't do it when we spend so much time comparing and wishing for things we don't have.

Comparison is just a waste of time. All it does is make us miserable. We need to trust the God who created us and believe He knew what He was doing in making us just as we are. We need to stop buying into the world's view of what is beautiful and what isn't. I think I would have accomplished so much more in high school if I had believed in myself and really liked who I was. I discovered my senior year that while I was longing to be like Kerri, other girls were admiring my good qualities. The things they wrote in my yearbook confirmed it. It wasn't until after high school that I realized what I had going for me. But I wasted my high school years feeling insecure and wishing I was someone else.

Perhaps the greatest gift a woman can give herself is the self-love and freedom to be who she is and never compare herself to anyone. There will always be someone prettier, smarter, or more talented, but there will never be anyone more perfectly suited to be you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

STILL IN THE PROCESS

Just a few moments ago, I was rude to a telemarketer. It seems that every time I answer the phone lately someone wants me to donate to a worthy cause, upgrade a service, or buy a product. Today I couldn't take anymore. First I said, "Not interested." Then he argued with me that I didn't even hear what he had to offer. Then I said, "You're wasting your time." He continued his pitch. Then I hung up on him.

If I'm happy with the service I have, why do I need to hear about the upgrade he has to offer? It's difficult to be nice to someone who will not take "No" for an answer. So why do I feel like I didn't handle it well? You know sometimes I just get tired of trying to respond to everyone in a kind manner. Yes even Christians need to blow off steam at times. We're far from perfect.

I'm told that I'm supposed to be joyful no matter my circumstances. I'm supposed to be patient, kind, loving, forgiving, and willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good. That's not easy. People and circumstances are constantly challenging my patience , my ability to forgive, and especially my all-encompassing joy. So I slip up at times. I'm not as nice as I should be. And since I didn't sleep at all last night, I probably have a shorter fuse than usual.

But you know what I like about following Jesus. He always forgives me. He's always willing to stand by me while I learn yet another lesson about life and dealing with the stress of this crazy world we live in. Christians aren't perfect, but one difference between them and nonbelievers is they know when they've been rude. God's spirit within them causes them to feel badly after speaking to someone rudely. If I could, I would apologize to that guy that was trying to sell me something I didn't need.

God knows I'm not perfect and he accepts me as I am. Every time I mess up, He welcomes me with open arms, forgives me and encourages me to keep following in His footsteps. He stresses how far I've come not how far I have to go. My favorite song right now goes something like this:

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are
broken and scarred
lift up your heart
and be amazed and be changed
by a perfect God

Sometimes I don't feel joyful, sometimes I complain too much, sometimes I get angry and I don't always focus on the good in people like the bible says we should. Following the teachings of Jesus is challenging because we live in a fallen world. Nonbelievers just love to see a Christian mess up so they can say, "See, you're no better than I am!"

They just don't get it. We already know that we're not better than anyone. We already know that we're far from perfect. That's the reason we seek God. We want to be amazed. We want to be changed by a perfect God. And that takes time and prayer. It's a process that will have its ups and downs. Sometimes we'll have victory and other times we will fail. We'll get frustrated and we might say or do things that don't reflect God's best response.

But God knows we're not perfect. That's not what He expects. He only expects us to keep trying by praying for help and growing in our knowledge of His ways.

Friday, July 17, 2009

TREASURES AND GIFTS FROM THE SEA
Book Commentary

Rarely do I discover a book that can only be described as a treasure. I found one such treasure at a bookstore in Wellsboro Pennsylvania over Memorial Day weekend. Gift From The Sea was a bestseller when originally published in 1955. It was written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh during a brief vacation by the sea.

When I enter a book store, I ask God to lead me to a treasure. With so many books stacked tightly on the shelves, I rely on the title or the look of the book to entice me. Gift From The Sea has both an intriguing title and appearance as it is a small book wrapped in a cover of my favorite color turquoise with shiny silver letters.

The cashier confirmed my hope when she immediately smiled and said, "Oh this is a treasure!" She held the book close to her heart as she pecked the register keys and told me that her mother had given her a copy before she left home for college.

My treasure couldn't wait to be read. I was completely absorbed in it as my husband drove us home from our weekend getaway. And now I'm compelled to share this treasure and all its wisdom.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the mother of five, an acclaimed writer, and a pioneering aviator. She wrote Gift From The Sea during a brief stay on Captiva Island on Florida's gulf coast. Using shells as metaphor for how to live our lives, Lindbergh offers precious insight for women at any stage of life. "Patience, faith, openness is what the sea has to teach," she says, "simplicity, solitude, intermittency."

I love what she wrote about a woman's need for solitude: "If it is a woman's function to give, she must be replenished, too. But how? Solitude says the moon shell...every woman should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week and each day."

We live in a world that doesn't understand the need to be alone. I've often turned down invitations because I needed time alone. But as Lindbergh observes, we are considered rude, egotistical or strange when we say, "I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone." This lack of understanding forces me to create other reasons why I can't attend. I have another commitment or perhaps a dental appointment.

Fortunately, I'm aware of my need for solitude and I feel no guilt about claiming it, but some women feel unjustified in demanding alone time and don't allow themselves that "luxury". Not realizing that solitude is a necessity, women push themselves from one activity to the next until they might fall to pieces. They find themselves in a doctor's office seeking help for stress and anxiety.

Occasional alone time is a justifiable need. I've even resorted to locking myself in a room to get it. As keeper of the home, a wife and mother is constantly on call. When she's at home she's also at work. There are children to care for, meals to make, messes to clean and errands to accomplish. Women never really get a break. They go to work and then come home to more work. "By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class," says Lindbergh.

Quiet time alone is how a woman regains her strength. We shouldn't have to apologize or make excuses for it. "A woman must be still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities," says Lindbergh. She discovered that even the island she lived on while writing held a lesson for living: "Unless I keep the island quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large."

As the moon shell teaches the value of solitude, the channeled whelk shell teaches the value of simplicity. Hermit crabs claim this shell because it's simple and can be carried easily. I also prefer a simple shell. I don't need the big fancy house that many women long for. With that house comes bigger bills and more rooms to clean. If women were satisfied with simplicity, they might not need to work outside the home. They could live with less and be where their hearts long to be, at home with their children.

The first thing Lindbergh learned as a beach dweller was the art of shedding. How little one can get along with, not how much. She suggests shedding our big wardrobes for a simple selection of clothes, simplifying our homes and shedding our need for absolute tidiness. By shedding pride and not worrying about impressing others we can choose as little furniture as possible. We can even shed the false friendships we've accumulated over the years. "I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest," says Lindbergh. Imagine how we could simplify our social lives if we only accept invitations from people who truly enrich us, those with whom we can be completely honest.

Sometimes life simplifies itself. When children grow and leave home, mothers can learn much from the argonauta shell. The mother argonaut isn't fastened to her shell, it's actually a cradle for her young. When the eggs hatch and the young swim away, the mother argonaut leaves her shell and heads for the open seas to start a new life.

This ebb and flow of life is what the argonauta teaches, but intermittency is an impossible lesson to learn claims Lindbergh. "We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb."

I don't deal with change well. Yet life is constant change, so why do I resist it? Like the ocean waves recede and then return to shore, our lives are forever changing and moving. But we fearfully cling to the familiar and can't accept even the natural progression that relationships must take.

How may women become depressed when their children leave the nest, believing that their life's purpose is gone when they could be celebrating the opportunity to discover new purpose, new interests and new passions.

How many women leave perfectly good relationships because that giddy spark of romantic love has grown into a deeper more dependable flame? But the passion is gone, so they search for a new partner only to find than even passion must eventually ebb toward something else, something more calm.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life. One of the hardest lessons I've learned is to live in the moment, to enjoy the season I'm in and stop longing for that next great hope on the horizon. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impatient says Lindbergh. We shouldn't dig for treasures she claims. That shows greed, impatience and lack of faith. Then she closes that chapter with a thought that is more about faith than ambition: "One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MEMORIES AND LESSONS

I found the neatest book in a consignment store recently. I guess it's more like a journal than a book. It's titled, "Reflections From A Mother's Heart: A Family Legacy For Your Children." It's a journal that prompts the reader with questions that encourage you to put your life story in your own words. The book has taken me on a memorable journey as I've answered questions about my favorite childhood pastimes, what my home looked like as a child, the view from my bedroom window, even the dresses I remember in my mother's closet. I wrote down special memories about my siblings and the summer days I spent at my grandma's house. It's a beautiful book.

One of the questions asks me to recall some of the most important lessons I've learned in life. It only gave me a page to respond. I needed much more space than that, so I'm sharing some of my lessons with you.

I've learned:
Life is more about helping others than it is about me
To stand up for myself and what I believe
To speak up when I should and be quiet when it's best
To ask God for guidance and start each day with prayer
How to choose friends that are true friends
Not to spill my guts to anyone who hasn't earned my trust
To dress modestly if I want respect
To think before making a decision
To think before speaking
Books are like quiet friends
To learn every day
To respond to cruelty with kindness
Real beauty doesn't reflect in a mirror
Not to get pulled into office gossip
Listening is a gift of love to others and to myself
What I say is as important as how I say it
Forgive or it eats you alive
Anger is poison that only kills me
Competing with people is pointless unless I'm in a baking contest
I should be hungry if I'm planning to eat
Eating can't satisfy heart hunger
God created a hunger in all of us that was meant for Him to fill
People do strange things when they're hurting, so be kind
Look beyond one's actions to their motives
I shouldn't control people or make decisions for them
Depression isn't something people can snap out of, so don't ever say that
Wives and mothers are underappreciated, be kind
Never laugh at someone who's trying to help you
Learn the love language of everyone you care about because a gift won't work when they want a compliment or a hug.
To know my boundaries
To treasure my friends
To never stop hugging my kids, no matter how old
It's better to be kind than to be right
God's opinion of me is the only one that matters

Saturday, April 25, 2009

GROWING IN THE VALLEY

I just read an e-mail from my friend Lucy that reminded me I can't be on the mountaintop always. God gives us valleys too and he allows them because that is where we grow the most. Having good health, riches, and a life free of problems doesn't allow us to develop kindness, goodness, patience, and self-control. Those are things we learn in the valleys because that is when we realize how much we need God.

So for now I'm growing in the valley of sleeplessness, but that's okay. I've been there before many times and I know I'll get through safely. By trusting God and realizing that He's with me I'll walk through this valley and come out stronger. My faith will be stronger. Then I'll be better prepared for the next mountaintop He wants me to climb.

One last thing, when I drove to the drug store for some natural sleep aids, I was looking at the selection and wondering which one would work for me. Then I felt a hand grab my arm and give it a slight squeeze. "How are you sweetie?" asked a lady that works there. I recognized her and said Hi. The way she touched me was not a gesture she had ever offered before. But I found comfort in it and wasn't surprised by it because on my way to the drug store I asked God to put someone in that aisle who could help me decide which sleep aid to buy. Another lady who was stocking shelves helped me to pick the right product. So God put two ladies in that drug store aisle, one to offer comfort and one to help with my purchase.

With a God like that on my side, I can get through any valley.... So can you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

HIGHER THAN HUMAN

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."--Ephesians 4:31-32

"We're only human," she said to me "We all get frustrated." She was responding to the guilt I feel when I'm troubled by people and circumstances. I'm not always the gracious woman that I long to be. Sometimes people say things that are so hurtful I want to lash out. Sometimes life seems so discouraging I want to throw up my hands and say, "I quit!"

I'm not sure how the conversation started. I think it started with her sharing the frustrations of her job. I then shared some of my own frustrations and she offered comfort by reminding me that we can't react perfectly to every situation. Our human nature is flawed. Sometimes that flawed nature takes over and we react in ways that we regret later.

As much as we try not to be swayed by the opinions of others, we are still hurt by careless comments. Sometimes it feels like certain people have it in for us. They seem to find satisfaction in making us look stupid and incapable. The last two people who gave me that impression were women. And I can still feel the hurt.

In my younger days I had that same competitive nature. I enjoyed being the smarter one, the prettier one, the harder working one, the more capable one. Today I get no satisfaction in that. But I still respond negatively to women who need to be the best. When a woman makes hurtful comments in an attempt to bring me down, I don't fight back I get quiet. But my friends will hear about it later. And I'll rehash the conversation in my mind for days, thinking about what I could have said to quiet her.

My flawed nature wants to fight back and years ago I was pretty good at delivering a cutting response. But I know that's not the way I should respond. So whenever I'm feeling verbally attacked I shut my mouth and pray, because I know that if I open my mouth I'll say ugly things I'll regret later. But when it's over, the hurt is still there and I need to talk about it. That's when I share my frustration with friends as I did with the woman who reminded me that I'm only human.

We are all human and we all mess up at times. The stress of life can cause us to vent frustration at any given moment. Sometimes the smallest thing can set us off. But there's a freedom and a peace in knowing that I no longer contribute to people's stress by needing to be better than them. Whatever insecurities I had back then have matured and I no longer need to be the greatest gal in the room.

I discovered that although I have a flawed nature and a human tendency toward selfishness, I can fight that tendency by an act of my will and choose to love others. I can even encourage other women to outshine me. My human competitiveness is smothered by my desire to love people rather than compete with them. And that puts me in a higher place, a peaceful place where I'm free to pursue my personal best without comparing my performance to anyone else's.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

THE HEART OF A DIVA
Book Commentary

"Attitude is everything!" I'm sure you've heard that saying many times. Attitude affects what we do and say, which affects how people respond to us and what we get back from life. A bad attitude usually gets bad results. People with good attitudes are usually happier, more successful, and better able to handle life's ups and downs.

"The secret to living the life you want is all about attitude," says Michelle McKinney Hammond in her book, The Diva Principle: Secrets to Divine Inspiration for Victorious Attitude. Hammond puts her readers on the road to success in every area of life, from romance to finance, by mastering the art of what she calls, "diva-tude."

Today, the word diva is associated with selfish vanity, but that's not its original meaning. Originally, a diva was an outstanding woman. She was the ultimate woman of confidence and style. Hammond draws examples from the lives of some very special divas and translates their stories into everyday principles for living.

I loved this book. It was recommended to me by a friend who has read it several times and is still soaking it in. And I do mean "soaking" as she has confessed to reading it in the bathtub, which explains the crinkled pages. Hammond might be the wisest woman on earth. She addresses every bad attitude a woman can possibly have and then explains why it's to her benefit to change her ways and develop a whole new attitude.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
"A diva keeps her cool when everyone else is losing theirs."
"Divas set fashion trends, they don't follow them."
"Divas are not moved by the opinion of others."
"A diva doesn't let a fool bring out the fool in her."

Hammond has opened my eyes to what it means to be beautiful in God's eyes. Every woman has three views of herself--her own view, the opinions of others, and God's view. But the only valid opinion of ourselves comes from God. Others can see us only through their own experiences, and the way we view ourselves is limited by our emotions and past hurts. "When we are in relationship to God, we begin to see through his eyes," says Hammond.

Oh how I wish I could have read this book and applied it twenty years ago. My daughter will certainly have a copy. Hammond's insight is so profound, it could transform a woman's life. As I read it, I thought of things that I had done and said in the past and I realized how poorly I handled those situations. I realized that if I had applied the diva principle I could have had a better outcome and walked away with more dignity.

" A truly divine diva knows that life is not about her but rather the contribution she makes to others around her," says Hammond. She suggests that looking beyond ourselves is the first step toward healing and getting through any kind of pain. And when people hurt us, Hammond suggests that we ask God to give us insight into their actions that will help us to extend grace to them. I loved that. It reminded me that sometimes people do and say things for reasons that we can't see, reasons that have nothing to do with us.

The Diva Principle just might be the best book I've read in a long time. It's a handbook for developing a woman's inner beauty that is so valued in God's eyes. And that inner beauty brings such grace and goodness to the world, every woman should make an effort to develop the victorious attitude called diva-tude. As Hammond puts it, "No matter how lovely the external, if your spirit, heart and mind are not in divine order, you're just another pretty face."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

DREAMS DO COME TRUE

Inside of everyone is a longing to do something. Some people want to open a bakery. Some dream of being a professional photographer. Others want to design clothes. Everyone has a dream job but very few people are actually doing the thing they dream about. Maybe it doesn't pay the bills. Or maybe the start up costs are too great. We can always find a reason not to pursue our dreams.

But I believe that when we take steps toward that dream, things start to happen. I'm thinking of the yellow brick road as an example. Of course this is fiction, but it's a good example of how following our longings can enrich our lives. If Dorothy hadn't followed that road toward her desire to get back home, she wouldn't have experienced all those adventures or met so many interesting people. Sometimes we need to pursue our dreams just for the adventure it brings. And if we keep at it, maybe someday someone will take notice and doors of opportunity will open. Eventually that dream could become our life's work.

I can give you an example of how this happens. In the early nineties I started writing a newsletter. After several months of writing I sent a sample of my work to a newspaper editor. He liked my work and gave me space for an occasional column. That got my foot in the door for an eventual job as a staff writer. I soon left the job for a better paying postition elsewhere, but within a matter of years I had gone from writing as a hobby to writing as a profession.

Dreams do come true. We just have to set one foot down on that road and start walking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NOT JUST COINCIDENCE

Have you ever received a godwink? Many people have experienced direct and personal messages of reassurance from God. Squire Rushnell calls them "godwinks" and he shares an amazing array of real-life examples in his book, "When God Winks at You." The book is a collection of inspiring and faith-building stories that demonstrate how God speaks to us through the power of coincidence.

The book was casually mentioned on Oprah, and since then has found a place on many nightstands, but only recently have I discovered it and I'm so glad I did. This book has strengthened my faith and reaffirmed what Rushnell says we can learn from it: "A mighty force is out there, bigger than all of us, watching over us, directing our lives."

As I read the true stories, amazing accounts from everyday and famous people, I began to recognize the godwinks in my own life, including one that was told to me the very same day I received the book. I was paying for a clothing purchase when I noticed the beautiful rings on the cashier's hand. She pointed to the ring on her pinky finger and said, "This was my mother's ring."

It wasn't the most outstanding ring she wore, but it meant the most to her because of the way she had acquired it. Her mother had promised that when she died, her box full of jewelry would become hers. But she had a sister who got to the jewelry box first with the intention of selling its contents. Through her brother's intervention, she did manage to at least keep the empty box that once contained her mother's jewelry.

One day while she was admiring the box and remembering her mom, she placed her hand inside and stroked the lining. Suddenly she stopped when she felt something odd. Looking closer, she discovered a hidden pocket in the lining and out of it she pulled her mother's wedding ring, the one ring that meant the most to her. She had been godwinked, given a sweet and personal message from the God who knew her mother's wishes and was able to deliver that ring to its rightful owner.

Reading Rushnell's book gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. The stories are simply amazing. "God validates His presence in our lives through small extraordinary events...We need to pay attention to these spirit connections in life," he claims. After reading just a few of the stories, I remembered the most recent godwink in my own life. It happened when I was feeling unappreciated. I was doing many things for many people, at home and elsewhere. But I felt that no one appreciated my effort. Disheartened and discouraged I walked out the door without a word to anyone and headed for the mall.

I've learned not to get out the credit card at times like that. A walk around the mall, some time to think and maybe a soft pretzel would make me feel better. After two hours of window shopping, scanning the book store, and people watching, I was ready to go home. But after downing a lemonade with my pretzel, a trip to the ladies room was needed. When I came out of the bathroom something caught my eye. It was red. As I walked closer, my spirits lifted as I recognized a familiar pair of earrings hanging on a circular display. I had been to this area of the store before and I knew it was where they sold marked-down earrings.

The earrings looked familiar because a month ago I had longed to buy that exact pair. For ten minutes I had debated spending the money on that bright set of red dangly earrings. I absolutely loved them. They were so "me". And I wanted them badly. But the price was the only thing making them undesirable. Now here those earrings were, just one pair on a bargain rack as if they were waiting just for me. When I saw the price on back, I knew they were mine--two dollars!

Even then, before I read the book, I felt those earrings were a gift from God but I didn't know to call them a godwink, a little wink saying, "Hey kid! I'm thinking of you...right now!" He knew I was feeling unappreciated and He wanted to give me a token of His love. And He did it by giving me something He knew I wanted. He was there that day I longed for those earrings but walked away without them. He knows the desires of my heart.

Godwinks are happening every day. Reading Rushnell's book has made me more aware of them and more open to receiving them. From now on, when God winks at me, I'll definitely know.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

BRINGING OUT THE TIGER

I've been hearing people say that they'd like to have more courage. Call it self-esteem, guts, nerve, gumption, spunk, confidence, there are many names for that quality we need to get things done in life. Without courage, we miss opportunities that could both make our lives better and improve the lives of others.

One thing I've discovered about courage is that it's not some magical quality that only certain people are blessed to have. Everyone has the potential to be courageous. The difference between people with courage and people who back down is the thing that drives them. Courageous people always have something big that's pushing them forward, something bigger than themselves.

Life is difficult. Sometimes it's plain exhausting, and we can reach a point where we want to give up. It's during those times that we have the greatest potential to become courageous. Looking back, I'd say that my most courageous time was when I was a single mother. Being alone and having a child that depended on me drove me to do things I wouldn't have done otherwise. I had to be strong and I had to make a living, not just for myself but for my son. He was my driving force that gave me the courage to try new things. Going from a waitress to a news writer was quite a leap. But I knew I had to do it to make a better life for my son even though I was scared.

I think some of the most unlucky people in the world are the children of rich parents who get everything handed to them. That security doesn't muster up courage, it kills it. And those kids might never know the nerve they have because they're not forced to find it. Sometimes adversity is a gift...a gift of courage to get out of that pit. We reach a point where we can't take another minute and we become so fiercely courageous that we make things happen...good things.

That's the thing about courage, it makes good things happen. And if we can get our eyes off ourselves long enough to see the greater good, then we can put aside our fears and doubts and step out of our comfort zones. The greatest things we'll ever achieve aren't waiting for us in the comfort zone. To achieve great things we have to wrestle with stage fright. We have to go where things aren't easy. And little by little we make a place for ourselves there until one day we feel like we actually belong.

The value of courage is the improvement it brings. Without courage, nothing grows, nothing is born and nothing gets better. So when something drives us to do something courageous, we have to be thankful for it even if it's something unpleasant like a divorce or a job loss. Without those things we wouldn't have developed the courage to improve our lives. And I believe that's one reason why God allows those things to happen, even to good people. God knows that there's a tiger in all of us, and he knows what it takes to bring it out.

God also allows adversity so it can draw us closer to Him. He wants to teach us about His love and faithfulness. When things are going great we tend to leave God out of the picture, but when we're broken we look up and fall to our knees. We need his fellowship and His presence. When adversity strikes, turning to God is the first thing we should do. When we remain focused on Him and not on our circumstances, we gain strength. By surrendering our selfish desires and allowing God to guide us through the problem, we'll get past the pain much quicker than if we fuss and fume and question. By staying close to God through prayer and reading the bible we find courage, guidance, and comfort... the three things we need most when we're hurting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

THE BEAUTY OF BOUNDARIES

When I get myself into trouble, it's often because I overstepped my boundaries. I voiced my opinion when it wasn't my place. I told someone to do something when it wasn't my right. Or I took on a responsibility that actually belonged to someone else. When I overstep my boundaries someone always notices and almost every time someone gets hurt. Over the years I've learned to be more aware of boundaries and the importance of respecting them.

But when I was younger and less experienced, I often overstepped my boundaries and I learned some painful lessons. One example is the time I assumed that I would be included in my best friend's wedding. She was living in another state, but we had been very close for years before she moved. In a letter she said, "I need you here for me." From that I assumed she was asking me to be a bridesmaid. How difficult it must have been for her to explain that she already had chosen her bridesmaids. They were the new friends she had made since moving away. Needless to say, I was hurt. But I brought that hurt on myself by assuming something I shouldn't have.

If you haven't heard the saying about what happens when we ASSUME, ask someone. We can overstep our boundaries simply with our expectations: "Well if it's not done my way then I don't want anything to do with it." We expect certain decisions to be made. We want things done a certain way to suit ourselves, and if we don't get our way then we turn our backs on the whole idea. We make it all about us or all about our own opinions and we forget who's really in charge. Through our selfishness we disrespect those rightful decisions. And if we back out when it doesn't go our way, we miss everything. The loss is ours. If I had allowed my hurt feelings to stop me from traveling to my friend's wedding, I would have missed a great weekend.

One question that I've learned to ask myself is, "Am I responsible for this?" In other words, if someone does something wrong, am I the person who should correct it? If something needs to be done, am I the person responsible? And if something needs to be said, am I the one who should speak? By asking myself these questions, I see more clearly what my role is and I can catch myself from stepping into something that's outside my realm of responsibility.

Overstepping our boundaries isn't always a mean-spirited mistake. Often, it's our enthusiasm or our willingness to help that gets us into trouble. Our intentions are good, but we soon discover that perhaps we should have held off on a decision. Trying to help with things that are outside our boundaries often puts people in tormenting situations. They don't want to hurt our feelings by rejecting the offer. But the truth is they have their own ideas and rightfully so because the decisions belong to them.

God is the originator of boundaries, so we must conclude that they are good things. The book of Psalms says, "You have set a boundary that they may not pass over." The author was speaking about God and how he set boundaries for the oceans by lifting the land above water. If God set boundaries for the oceans he surely has set boundaries for us. The Ten Commandments are a big part of those boundaries. But not every decision in life comes with a commandment. So we have to think about what we do and say and pray that our words and actions are right.

Boundaries are beautiful because they prevent hurt feelings, they prevent us from being embarrassed, they remind us that it's not all about us, and they keep us from exhausting ourselves with responsibilities that don't belong to us. Whenever we get our feelings hurt or find ourselves arguing about something, we should always ask ourselves if we've overstepped our boundaries. Without boundaries life is chaos, and when we don't pay attention to our limits we always pay a price.

Friday, February 27, 2009

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

How many times has your inner voice been trying to tell you something and you ignore it? Then later you wish that you would have acted on that instinct and done something instead of sitting back. Intuition, a sixth sense, our conscience, there are many names for that inner knowing that we call instinct. Whenever something feels off, there's always a reason for it. But we make excuses and shove the feeling aside because we don't want to face what we have to do to address it.

Sometimes that off feeling means having to confront someone. Sometimes it might mean losing someone who's not good for us. And other times it means making a change we don't want to make. So we tell ourselves that everything is okay and if we give it time things will get better and that uneasy feeling will pass. But if our instincts are right, the feeling only gets stronger and by not addressing the problem, the problem gets worse.

God gave us that inner voice to help us make decisions and even to make changes when it's time to move on. We need to listen to our instincts and we need to act when something doesn't feel right. When we're not sure exactly what to do, God is always there waiting for us to ask. And he uses many different ways to let us know how to handle it. Sometimes he'll close a door. Sometimes he'll open a door. Sometimes he gives us peace about a decision. Sometimes we have no peace and can't go through with it. God speaks to us in many ways, but we won't hear from him unless we set time aside each day to listen.

We can trust our instincts when we're close to God because that inner knowing comes from Him.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

KEEPING IT REAL

Have you ever been around someone who just makes you uncomfortable? She just doesn't seem real. You sense that she's trying to appear a certain way-sophisticated, proper, whatever you want to call it. She's just not genuine, almost not human. And you find yourself keeping your distance because she seems to be analyzing your every move.

In her book, The Life You Long For, Beth Moore says that the number one comment she's heard repeated throughout her ministry is, "Thank you for being real." Beth admits that she's disturbed by that comment. "Why would personal transparency be so exceptional among Christians?" she wonders. Then she offers her priceless wisdom: "People don't need us to act like we always have it together. They need help!"

I'm not sure what women get out of appearing sophisticated and proper, but friendship can't be it. People are drawn to honesty. They feel comfortable around people who are real. People who've made mistakes and admit it. People who struggle and admit it. People who aren't afraid to share their mess ups and don't look down on other people's messes. Like Beth pointed out, the world doesn't need us to be sophisticated and proper, it need us to care about people with compassion and kindness.

All my closest friends have one thing in common-they keep it real. We laugh together, cry together, and struggle together. None of us pretends to have a proper life. We openly admit that sometimes our lives are a mess. We fall apart and pick each other up. I see who my friends really are because they show me who they are. They admit their insecurities. They admit they have fears, doubts, and cellulite. And it makes me want to hug them not back away.

What would happen if women just cut the bull and got real? We'd be dangerous because we'd be stronger. There is strength in numbers, but when we act like we always have it together, there's no one supporting us because who can relate to that? There's no one to pick us up because we don't seem real and in need of help. So we struggle alone in our sophisticated, proper world.

"That bull is keeping us from a profound healing from God because it blinds us to our own needs," says Moore. Putting so much effort into being the best keeps us from really improving our lives and bringing joy to others. When we're not real, we're not alive. We're more robotic than human and we miss the real joys in life. We miss real friendship, real love, and real understanding.

Let this be the year we cut the bull and get real. Instead of putting effort into being the best, being proper and sophisticated, lets put our effort into getting real and helping others. I believe it's one of the keys to a happy life that's blessed by God in so many ways. Keeping it real keeps the blessings coming.

Friday, February 13, 2009

...continued from last blog
EVIDENCE WORTH BELIEVING

Evidence of Jesus


The major world religions recognize Jesus as a historical figure-muslims, jews, buddhists and hindus. No other historical figure receives acclaim in other religions around the world. Historical documents speak of Jesus and countless historians testify to the historical reliability of the life of Jesus as reported in the New Testament. And these historians were not all Christians, some were hostile to Christianity. There are ten non-Christian historians who mention Jesus within 100 years of his life. And the story line about Jesus from these non-Christian sources lines up exactly with the New Testament.

Based on evidence supported by eyewitnesses, archaeology, and outside (non-Christian) sources, the New Testament is a reliable historical document of Jesus and His life. History reports that Jesus lived, was worshipped as God, was crucified, buried, and rose again. The tomb of Buddha is occupied. The tomb of Muhammad is occupied. But the tomb of Jesus is empty because he is the son of an eternal God. When he came to earth, Jesus was God in the form of a man

Jesus' miracles verify His claim to be God. Jesus turned water to wine (John 2:7-10). He walked on water (Matt. 14:25). He made blind men see (John 9:6-11). He made the lame walk (Mark 2:3-12). He multiplied bread to feed a multitude (John 6:11-13). He healed many people of all kinds of sickness (Matt. 9:35). He even raised the dead to life on several occasions (Mark, Luke, and John).

The Old Testament predicted Jesus. There are 191 Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Christ. They were written about 400 years before he was born. Non-Christian writers clearly affirmed that Jesus lived and then died by crucifixion. When he died, history reports that darkness fell and an earthquake occurred. And after Christ rose from the dead, he appeared to over 500 different people. If Jesus is a myth, this myth made quite an impact on a lot of people.
He even split history in two. Think about how we record time. B.C. stands for "before Christ." A.D. stands for "in the year of the Lord." Time is measured before and after Christ's coming to earth. Every time we write a date B.C. or A.D. we acknowledge Jesus Christ.




Wednesday, February 4, 2009

EVIDENCE WORTH BELIEVING PART 2

...continued from last blog
EVIDENCE WORTH BELIEVING

Archaeological Evidence
Archaeology offers compelling support that the Bible is accurate.
Over the years, many biblical civilizations have been discovered such as Babylon, Jericho, and ancient Mesopotamia. Also proven through archaeology are many people mentioned in the bible. The House of David inscription was discovered in 1994, proving that David was a real person in history as the bible records.

One of the most dramatic finds was a collection of tablets that record biblical kings in two categories: those who reigned before the great flood and those who reigned after it. Recent discoveries have confirmed the existence of Abraham, Isacc and Jacob, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the site of Solomon's temple.

Evidence of Prophecy
A prophecy is a prediction of what will happen in the future. The bible has proven to be completely accurate in predicting future events. For example, the book of Isaiah predicted Cyrus would be the king who would allow the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its temple. More than 100 years after that biblical prediction, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon destroyed the temple and the jews living in Jerusalem were killed or taken captive to Babylon. Then in 539 BC the Persians conquered Babylon and Cyrus, a Persian king declared that the jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple

Many prophecies given in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. The Bible is the only book in the world that gives precise specific predictions that were made hundreds of years before their fulfillment. The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,817 predictions from the bible.

Evidence of Preservation
For 3,000 years, the bible has survived relentless, determined opposition. Yet even books written 100 years ago are out of print and nowhere to be found. Countless accounts exist to verify the bible's survival. One amazing account comes from Alexander Duff, a young Scottish missionary who was shipwrecked on his way to India. He brought 800 books on his journey, all of which were lost. When the shipwrecked survivors were safely on shore and sifting through the wreckage, only one book washed ashore. It was Alexander Duff's bible.

With so much proof of God's existence, you can understand why the bible states: The fool says there is no God. Next week I'll conclude with further evidence.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

EVIDENCE WORTH BELIEVING

If you get the History channel, you've probably seen the program about December 21, 2012 being predicted for centuries as history's final day. This topic has a lot of people talking right now. With the world being in such a shaky condition, people are searching for answers. They're questioning their beliefs and wondering where they can find truth.

People who don't believe in God have some very good questions about Christianity and every believer should be prepared to answer these questions and present evidence for his or her faith. It's for that reason that my husband and I have started a bible study on apologetics- answering the questions people have about Christianity and presenting logical arguments or reasons why you should believe in Christ.

This is the most interesting bible study I've ever participated in. I'm learning so much and what I'm learning is so exciting I can't keep it to myself. In a brief explanation, here are some of the evidences we've discovered. This study could go on forever and we're hoping that it will. Read on and decide for yourself if the evidence is worth believing.

Evidence of God

Since Einstein, five scientific discoveries have come to light that prove the universe did have a beginning. According to the "law of casualty," the fundamental principle of science, everything that had a beginning had a cause. In other words, a universe that began requires a beginner. So you might ask, "Then what caused God?" Well, God didn't need a cause because he didn't have a beginning. God is eternal.

Astronomers have proven by their own methods that the world began abruptly in an act of creation. They can trace the seeds of every star, planet, and living thing. And this act of creation happened as a product of forces they can't explain. Natural forces were not the cause. Something outside of nature was the cause.

Evidence of a designer

The universe is amazingly fine-tuned so that humans can exist. For example, oxygen is 21% of the atmosphere. If it were 25%, fires would constantly erupt. At 15%, humans would suffocate. If our planet were smaller (like Mercury) it couldn't support an atmosphere. If it were larger (like Jupiter) the atmosphere would contain hydrogen, which is poison to humans. Also, the earth is just the right distance from the sun-any closer we would burn, any further we would freeze. And probably the strongest indicator that our world has an intelligent designer is DNA, a highly complex informational code. You can't have a code without a code maker.

Evidence of God's written word

The bible stands alone as the best preserved literary work of all history. Over 24,000 New Testament manuscripts have been discovered. And the oldest of the Old Testament manuscripts (the dead sea scrolls) were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near the Dead Sea. "But the bible is just a story book written by men," you might say. Yes, God used 40 men from varied backgrounds to write the text of the bible over a period of 1,500 years. Yet the bible has one central theme and one continuous message, which is presented in perfect harmony. How could 40 men from varied walks of life, from a fisherman to a king, write a book that possesses such unity of theme and message unless it was inspired by one divine God?

To be continued...

Friday, January 23, 2009

A SWEET ESCAPE

Yesterday I ran away from home...for five hours. It felt great to have five glorious hours all to myself to do whatever I wanted. No one yelled, "Mom, where are my socks?" or "Mom, when's dinner?" I didn't have to listen to anyone's complaints or pre-pubescent attitudes. It was a slice of Heaven and I plan to do it more often.

No matter how great a family gets along, every one in that family needs time away. And the need for solitude should always be respected. There have been times when I needed to be alone on the same day we were planning to go visit family or friends. Instead of going and pretending to be sociable, I chose to go to the library or the mall to be by myself and refresh my spirit. I'm sure that some people didn't understand my decision and maybe even took it personally, as if I didn't want to see them. But that wasn't the case. I simply realized that I needed to get away, and I knew that if I didn't, no one would enjoy my company anyway.

I can always tell when someone in the room needs a sweet escape. They don't want to be where they are. And in my opinion, they should have stayed home. It's nice to see family and friends, but my need to see them isn't greater than their needs. And if what they need is solitude, then that's what they should have.

Yet, for some reason, taking time for ourselves often comes with a certain amount of guilt, as if we don't deserve such a luxury. A few years ago, I dreaded going to the funeral of a family member. I was going through a very stressful situation, and I just couldn't bring myself to go. Yet I knew that my absence would be questioned. And I worried that I would appear disrespectful. I realize now that I was suffering from exhaustion and the stress of a serious life change. What I needed was rest. So I listened to what my body and mind were crying out for and I didn't go to the funeral.

We've had several family gatherings since then, and not a single person has asked me why I wasn't there. Feeling guilty had been a waste of energy. And I decided that from then on, I would take the time I needed when I needed it, no matter what event was planned. Of course, there are times when we need to push through, put on a happy face and make an appearance. But we know by instinct when we must be tough and when we can give in to that need for a sweet escape.

Friday, January 16, 2009

LIFE'S LITTLE MISHAPS

The weeks go by so quickly. I just realized that I missed my Thursday deadline. I've been trying to write every Thursday. It's now Friday night and I have no idea what I'm going to say. Throughout the week, I try to remember things I experienced or things people said so I can use that material in my blog. The only thing that comes to mind at the moment is those little mishaps that bring so much interest to life. You know those things we do that are annoying at the time but we laugh about later. My day was filled with those, including one I can't laugh about.

First of all, I almost hit a car that pulled out in front of me in Halifax. That's the one I can't laugh about. I must have come within an inch of that car when the driver pulled out of his parking space and into my path, forcing me to come down hard on my brakes. I really didn't think I could stop in time and was just waiting for the sound of crunching metal. Fortunately that sound never came, but I was ticked and I wanted to give the guy a piece of my mind, but then I remembered the times that I did stupid things while driving and decided to forgive him.

Then I tried to use a Giant coupon at the Weis store. The cashier said, "This one isn't going to work" and handed it back. She laughed with me and said she did the same thing once or twice. This was after I had spent an hour pushing one of those annoying carts that are so hard to maneuver. The wheels were stuck or something wasn't right because I couldn't push the thing to the left without lifting the back wheels and sliding them to the right. I remember thinking when I grabbed it, "I hope this isn't one of those stupid carts you can't push."

As I wobbled my groceries to the car, a runaway can of Ravioli escaped from the cart's undershelf. Somehow it ended up following me across the parking lot like a well-healed puppy. I turned around and scooped it up, hoping no one had noticed. At least it was a can and not a jar. Last week I almost popped a tire at the Wal Mart parking lot when I nearly drove over a broken jar of spaghetti sauce. It wasn't mine.

That reminds me of another grocery mishap someone told me about years ago. I can't remember who it was, but she placed a gallon of milk on the roof of her car so she would have her hands free to unlock the door. Then she drove off with the milk riding on the roof. When she got home, she was certain she had bought a gallon of milk. A few hours later it hit her what she had done and she could only wonder how far the milk had traveled before exploding onto the ground. And worse yet, who might have seen it? How many people would be asking if the milk made it home safely?

It's amazing how many mishaps a person can have in one day. My ravioli wasn't the only runaway item I dealt with today. I nearly hit an empty garbage can as the wind rolled it across the street. Then I drove over the curb at the Burger King drive-thru. Maybe that was God telling me I shouldn't be eating the ice cream cone I ordered.

When I finally got my groceries home, I was glad to be back in my warm house and out of the bitter cold wind. My husband made me a cup of coffee and I hoped my mishaps were finished for one day. But as I'm typing this, he told me that he found that container of tomatoes I was looking for. I knew I had bought two tubs of baby tomatoes but one had mysteriously disappeared. He found it in the bag I had just stuffed with empty grocery bags. Minutes later, my daughter said, "And we found a can of chicken bouillon in there too."

There must have been something in the air today, because my son just told me he locked his keys in his car at the gas station. Well I've done that too, with a toddler in the back seat and the windows up on one of the hottest days of the year. After calling for help, I remembered the spare key I had wired under the back of my car. That messed-up day cost me $40 to pay the guy that drove twenty miles to help me. Later I realized I had Triple A and could have gotten help for free. Some mishaps are just more mishappy than others as they seem to come in ever-worsening layers.

I'm hoping my layers are complete for one day, but it's only 8:oo. And now my daughter's mad at me for spending so much time at the computer instead of quality time with her. I think I'll go to bed early tonight. How much trouble can I get into while sleeping? Maybe a day like this will just spill over into my dreams. Oh well, there's always tomorrow. Tomorrow I can start over and have a good laugh about today. If nothing else, the day was quite entertaining, especially for the customers at Burger King who saw me drive over the curb. And it gave me something to write about. God can take even our mistakes and use them for good. That's why we shouldn't let those little mishaps bother us. They entertain, they make us laugh, and they keep us humble. I'm learning to embrace my mishaps. How boring the day would have been without them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

WORTHWHILE RESOLUTIONS

Happy New Year! Now I must remember to write "09" on my checks instead of "O8". The older we get the faster time flies. Our parents were right. Summers seemed to last forever when I was a kid. I think that was because I was so carefree back then. Life was mostly about having fun. As adults, our lives are so busy with responsibilities that time slips away from us. If we had more time to catch bugs, lay in the grass and watch clouds go by or build snow forts, then maybe time would pass more slowly

As another new year begins, one thing I'm not doing is making resolutions I will not keep. I'm not promising to lose weight, although I would like to lose the four pounds I gained over the holidays. But there are more important things to consider. And sometimes, when we get our minds on something else, the thing we hope for just happens... like losing weight when we become completely engrossed in a new project.

Here's the project: Make only three resolutions this year, but make them big and challenging. First, Resolve to love people, not things. On New year's Eve, I heard one of the saddest examples of loving things more than people. A young girl came home and told her mom that one of her classmates kept looking inside her shirts to read the tags at her back neckline. After several days of this she asked her classmate why she was doing this. "I'm just checking to see if you're wearing cool clothes or junk," she said in a sassy tone.

Kids are cruel. And they can either be corrected or allowed to act this way. If I caught my daughter making such a comment she would have some serious consequences awaiting her. When someone makes a piece of fabric more important than a young girl's feelings, that person needs a lesson in love or maybe she needs to feel loved herself. When we love things more than people we display a twisted sense of what truly matters in life. It can be a house, a car, a shirt, a vacation, or anything we want or value more than the people around us. In the movie, "Fireproof" a husband who finally realized what love is gave up the money he was saving for a boat. He gave twenty thousand dollars of his hard-earned savings to his wife's sick mother. Now that's loving people more than things.

Another resolution that's worth making is to speak less and listen more. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they don't hear you because they are thinking about what they want to say next, and they respond to your response before you can finish a sentence? The book of Proverbs has this to say: "He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame."

Few things make me feel less important than a poor listener. And I don't want to be one myself. At times holding my tongue is the most difficult thing in the world. I have so many clever come backs that I could spew out. But one thing I noticed is that I always feel better the next day after holding my tongue. I'm almost proud of myself for taking the high road and it feels good. While in my memory, the person who stood in front of me shooting her mouth off sounded like a fool. But even when the conversation is a pleasant exchange among friends, we can learn a lot by listening more and speaking less.

The last resolution on my list is by far the most important. These three words have the power to change your life...Put God first. Whenever I overhear someone sharing a problem they're trying to overcome, I want to ask, "Are you putting God first and praying for his help"? So many people face life on their own. They stumble through each day with no peace. When a problem arises, they face it with nothing more than their own strength and their own understanding.

Rather than to ask for wisdom from the God of the Universe, creator of all things, some people put faith in themselves, believing that they are more capable and smarter than God. They think Christians are weak and in need of a crutch to get through life. But they are the ones who are stumbling. They walk through each uncertain day while God-fearing Christians live a life on wings. God carries us through every trial toward victory.

Why walk when you can fly? Needing God is needing a crutch? Quite the opposite is true. Seeking God allows us to toss away our crutches and take flight. Flying is freedom. There's a freedom that comes with putting God first. He promises to care for our every need when we seek him with all of our hearts. God's resources are limitless, and he can bless us with everything we need. All he asks is that we seek him first.

Seeking God means praying and studying his word in The Bible. Every one of life's problems can be solved when we put God first and follow his lead. What a great year 2009 will be if we make and keep those three resolutions...love people; not things, speak less; listen more, and put God first.

God wants us to have the best life we can possibly have on earth. The choices we make will either lead us toward or away from that blessed life. The Bible is our instruction manual, and every resolution I mentioned can be backed up with scripture. These aren't my suggestions, they are God's. The bible contains every resolution worth making and keeping. If we pick up God's book, read it, and do what it says, we will have the best year of our lives.