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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.

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.