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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.

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."