Monday, April 23, 2018

How Tall Are You?

It’s so common in California and the Southwest United States to see miles and miles of palm trees waving in the breeze that we often never even think about how they got so very tall. There are many varieties for many tastes from the fan palms to queen, date, and royal palms. They just look beautiful and we let it go at that thought.

Palm trees have shallow roots, and so it is a wonder how they rarely fall over! But, unlike other trees, it is all in the amazing root “arms” that grow outward anywhere from 25 feet to 50 feet away depending on the type of species. Most of us can barely appreciate this feat of nature, but surely the men and women who climb higher and higher to trim these palms have a greater respect for these “anchored” creations. God knew what He was doing.

We humans on the other hand, go about our lives struggling and twisting and turning trying to stay upright without toppling over with fear and anxiety. Could it be our “roots” may not be strong enough? As each day passes and our lives seem dull and boring, or perhaps, uneasy and unsure, we could ask ourselves if we have grown outward by first establishing a daily habit of calming and focusing on the One who created us.

This circadian practice goes a long way in helping us to handle whatever comes our way whether it is getting the kids out the door to school, making it to a meeting at work on time, or paying the bills yet again. But, this spiritual routine is especially important when we have to face a cancer diagnosis, figuring out how we will make it on our own when the divorce papers are delivered, or living on the streets with our child in hand.

Just knowing where and to Whom we can rely on for reassurance and hope, is the best start to finding the answers. We have to understand God will never leave us or turn us away, no matter if we turned our backs on Him and went our own way in the past, or not. Our God has a BIG heart!

Some of us out there may not have known the Lord as our Savior when life started falling apart. It was devastating to find out we were entirely on our own with nowhere to go up, down, or sideways. We were truly lost and without hope. But by choosing to know and communicate with God when things are going well, we will never be uprooted and overturned when mountainous problems and tragedy strikes.

We may often ask how others do it. How they make things look so easy even in the face of major life changes and loss. There really is only one answer to that dilemma: We either need to be as tall as a palm tree, or, we need a Savior on our side Who created the palm tree!

“We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. . .” Isaiah 53:6a The Message.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sanity and the Single Mom

Moms of toddlers, teens, and everything in-between can chuckle and knowingly nod their heads when we say "It was so much easier when they were gentle, quiet babies!" That was when we had some measure of control over our children, right. Now it's non-stop noise, running, jumping, and wrestling with siblings. Where, oh where, do they get all that energy? 

It seems the word "gentle" doesn't even re-enter our vocabulary until they are grown and out the door! But, we love our children dearly and wouldn't exchange them, even if we could. Our basic responsibility as parents is to guide and direct their steps, so when they reach adulthood they will instinctively know what to do and how without our interference. Of course, this doesn't come without some struggles and difficulties on both sides.  

Check the Mirror
Raising children requires more than an ounce of gentleness and self-control on our parts. One of the things we learn as parents is our actions and attitudes will be copied by our children. No doubt about it! When they live with a harsh or violent parent, they will likely learn to be harsh and violent to some degree. And the opposite is also true. Developing a kind and quiet nature ourselves will go far in modeling what we may want to see in our grown children some day. 

It is not easy to maintain a gentle, soothing and tender nature ourselves if we, naturally, are not prone to a mellow personality. If we grew up in a home where extreme and harsh discipline was a constant pattern, where love and affection was scarce, and perfection was required, we may need to find a good Christian counselor to help us heal from our past abuses. Understand, there is absolutely no condemnation/blame here and no shame in talking with a professional. It's a plus.   

Seven Tips for Maintaining Sanity
If we are simply looking for ways to improve our parenting skills (and who isn't?), these are just seven things we can do to get the ball rolling:
  • Join a local mom's group such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or Moms Club International
  • Research common parent-child issues 
  • Speak with a professional child development specialist
  • Encourage children to use their own special talents and gifts (even if it isn't something we would choose)
  • Listen and support the ideas our children express
  • Raise children in a Christian home and church 
  • Use the only Power Source: Prayer, Prayer, and more Prayer-for ourselves and our children!
We've all heard the phrase, "Once a mom, always a mom," so we might as well learn how to be the best parent possible and not leave it up to chance, or worse yet, to someone else. Our families will thank us and, we will enter our retirement years with the assurance we did the very best we could to raise gentle, self-controlled, and happy children. 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23

Note: this article is solely based on the observance and experience of the author/mom. To have your personal questions and concerns addressed, may we suggest speaking with a professional counselor. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Race to the Finish Line

Today, April 16th, is one of the most famous marathons in the U.S.--the annual Boston Marathon. But many cities around the world sponsor 5K running events and they are all celebrations of what the human body can actually accomplish. Boston began their event way back in 1897. Last year, there were 27,222 brave souls who started in the marathon and 26,400 actually finished. Congratulations to all and maybe some will even return for another round this year!

The BM prize purse this year totals $830,500. Whoa! Not everyone gets a prize though. The money in the purse is divided between the top 15 runners, plus two other divisions. First Place, both men and women, receive $150,000 each. The 15th Place runner claims $1,500.       

I Think I Can, I Think I Can!

It's a nice goal to set for ourselves but, maybe not yet this year because it does take a bit of training and a lot of commitment and determination. Running is something nearly everyone can do. It all starts with just getting out there and moving. Like walking those legs. Then advancing to a walk/jog, and then light jogging, and full-on running. Sure, many of us will never get to the running part (depending on our age and ability). But even consistent walking can be our own special kind of marathon!

Just think, in the Boston Marathon the youngest competitor is 18 years old, but there are always a dozen or so entrants that are 80+ years young! So, that age thing going on in our brains holding us back from even trying can’t be used as the perfect excuse anymore (big smile here).

Just for some perspective, a good goal for a 5K beginner is under 40 minutes. In no time, with practice and consistency, one should be able to reduce that time to around 28 minutes. Keep in mind, the record for a 5K female runner is 14.11 minutes (if you're comparing--and who is?--the men's record is 12.37). We are not saying any of us non-competitive women should try this at all! We are just throwing out a challenge to get our bodies moving. Got it? Got it!

Where Is The Finish Line?

There are so many "finish lines" or ideals we can challenge ourselves with in our life journey. We all recognize that we've already been through grueling days and years of being run over by other people. Often, we didn’t have the energy to stand up to them. It was just too much. And, it was even scary and dangerous.

Make HEALTHY your next challenge!
Now, we have reached our own finish line and can raise our arms in victory! It feels good and we are ready for more challenges. Small ones, medium ones, and large ones that we know can bring us to the forefront of our own personal "marathon." Challenges give us the practice and confidence needed to sustain a good life. We all have different lives and now know better what we need.    

Our "Coach" in All Things

We may never have done much running in our pasts. But we have a reason now to take care of our bodies, so they don’t fail us when we need them most. God calls it, taking care of his temple. That’s what we are, his temple; his place where the Holy Spirit permanently lives in our hearts. Where he can reside and assist us with all those challenges. Among other things, his purpose is to give us encouragement, comfort, strength, direction, guidance, and focus. Aren't we glad we can count on someone?

"Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!" 1 Corinthians 9:24 NLT.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Making the Most of the Day After THE Day

It's the day after. . . It's over, but just beginning. We may not have gotten all we wanted in the agreement of our disagreement, but it is our life. It is what it is. No sense stomping our feet. Ban the worry. Kick the fear. Shatter the feeling. Drown the overwhelming dread. This is our life and better yet, this is a fresh start. We want to keep the momentum going (after all, a moving object is hard to destroy, right?).

So to ease up and take a much needed break, nothing is more encouraging than sitting before a sunrise or sunset (depending on if you are a morning or evening kind of woman) while reflecting on:

The reasons why we are blessed with this fresh start:

1. It’s a surprising wake-up call
2. Offers to us a brand new day with new mercies
3. Bestows hope for all things
4. Gives us reason to jump up with joy
5. It's God's love-gift to us
6. Perfectly colors our world
7. Keeps us humble
8. Provides peace to our mind, body and soul
9. Reminds us of our Creator
10. Primary subject of artistic expression
11. Can share it, but not lose it
12. What dreams are made of
13. Best movie endings
14. Brings a release of tears
15. Leaves us with ideas for tomorrow
16. Conclusion to a wonderful day
17. Proof God is alive and in control

These are only seventeen reasons to be grateful. Obviously, there are many, many more we could fill our journals with--in fact, go ahead and try it. Taking a break is a highly avoided activity, but it's no reason for any kind of guilt. Breaks are actually an excellent form of free personal therapy! Without a regular habit of stillness and contemplation to calm our minds, we will never hear from God.

The Clamor is Deafening!
Too many of us have said, "I never hear from God." Could it be because we live in constant noise and chaos? God is gentle. He whispers. He listens. He is patient. Thank Him for that alone! And for bringing us this far.

We can find a favorite, quiet place to go to and carve out a time to spend with Him. For most of us, this place is in the outdoors. It could be near a river or creek, a hillside, a park, a forest, or even our backyard, porch, balcony, or living room. Someplace. Somewhere. He is waiting to spend time with each of us. Can you hear Him now?

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left" Isaiah 30:21 NLT.

Monday, April 9, 2018

How Do You Handle Fear?

Just last month, we once again heard of another devastation at a high school in our nation. It’s not that no one doesn’t prepare for disasters such as these. Teachers and students have regular drills to plan for emergencies. But when it comes time to use the training, there is still a moment of shattered nerves and expected panic before the brain adjusts to what needs to be done.

One student said that his teacher had the entire class leave their belongings, get up from the floor, and follow her out the exit leading outside. This teacher ignored her own feelings of fear and found the courage to protect her students. This is bravery in action!

Waiting parents also tend to be stricken with terror not knowing the final outcome in an emergency involving their children. No one says we should never fear anything, because of course, that is a natural human condition that touches us all. It would be worrisome if it didn’t.

Handling Our Fears
In our single-again situations, we can easily reach a level of panic when dealing with all the changes necessary to move on with our lives. Where will we live? Who will get custody of the kids? Will there be enough money to survive on one income? How do I explain this to friends and family? And on and on.

What we want to strive for, rather than fear, is to have courage in the face of all the turmoil. That is the key to surviving danger and difficulties with confidence. We already know deep down inside what we need to do. We put one foot in front of the other and don’t look back. Easy? Who said it was easy?

Easy is when someone else does it for us. Easy is depending on others’ generosity without lifting a hand to help them or ourselves. Easy is to acquire without extending gratitude. God never meant for us to take without giving.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. (Theodore Roosevelt)

There is one more important aspect about courage. It is not simply a manly trait as some tend to think. That is an ancient notion and is shattered by the likes of Amelia Mary Earhart (first female to fly solo across the Atlantic) and Mae Jemison (first African-American woman in space). As well as all those unnamed brave teachers who protect their students in the face of danger.

Brave Hearts and Minds
God empowered many women of the Bible to live with confidence and courage--Esther and Deborah for instance. They came to know His truth, sufficiency, and strength by being brave enough to place one foot in front of the other the same way we all can.   

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

What Does Your Weather Map Show?

Training day for the ducklings
Spring is here! And it seems every year when it arrives, summer is too fast behind. But before all those hot days arrive, we can indulge in this season of warm rain, sprouts of green, and blooms of pink, blue, and yellow everywhere. We’ve had our fill for now of snow and cold; of dragging coats and boots out of the closet, just as the sun bursts out.

No matter our age, we are ready for splashing in puddles with the kids, along with the young ducklings who must jump out of trees and head for the water to survive! And fat little fledglings have their say at the top of their tiny lungs, too. Ahhh, Spring!

Clean and Clear
The rain is so welcome because it washes away all the dirt and grime of the city streets. It irrigates farmlands and plains, nourishes mountains, and brings welcome relief to deserts. Showers purify and feed all living things creating God-inspired greenery. Vegetation nearly jumps up and shouts, “Thanks, Lord!”

We need all of this natural cleansing and care to save us from the accumulated garbage. But the most fun in Spring is when gardeners get out, dirty their hands in the soil, and start planting with uncontrolled enthusiasm. We simply can not survive without rain. Things start blooming like crazy!   

Out From Under the Trash
In the same way, we need cleansing from all the dirt we’ve accumulated from the past. Relationship pollution and trash have weighed us down; kept us from finding the momentum to move forward. Like cleaning out a closet, we just don’t need all the stuff that doesn’t fit. We want to make room to breathe.

As single-again women, we all have leftovers, but this rubbish is different for each one. Taking an honest assessment of our lives will make sense of the nonsense. It will take courage because it is not easy to look at things we are not proud of; words we want to take back; things we should have done and those we did not do.

Getting to this point in our journey took that same kind of fearlessness. So, it’s there deep inside each one of us, it’s just asleep. We can revive our steadfastness to create an amazing new life. Just remember, spring cleaning will clear out any doubts of how to live with passion, power and purpose. Our possibilities are endless!

What Kind of WORD Are You?
We didn’t get to our destination by accident. We were watched over with the care and concern of a loving God. He hated what we went through. The Bible says He collected all our tears in a bottle! Can you just imagine that? Some of those bottles were immense and some are still being filled.   

Because our God believes in new growth, He has given us cleansing rain. He has delivered us into a new land of “milk and honey” where we can sprout and become who we were meant to be: God’s WORD - Women of Renewed Devotion! (c)  

"He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures" Psalm 148:8 NLT.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Did You Miss It?

Along with Spring, comes the celebration of Easter. Children, especially, look forward to it with giggles and happiness. Bunnies and chicks start multiplying! Many of us like to decorate our homes with bouquets and lawn signs that read, “Life is beautiful!” And there is nothing wrong with any of this. . . except, we get Spring and Easter mixed up.  

How Do We Get to Easter?
Realizing the ignorance and hatred that caused a man to murder two and blind a third person caused that one survivor to forgive his attacker in 2011 in Texas. The same thing happened in 2003 when a father forgave a serial killer for the rape and murder of his 16-yr old daughter. And similar stories go on and on.  

How could this be possible? Putting cruelty of the attackers aside, these victims reached deep down inside themselves and found kindness to be their answer. Rather than continuing the hatred or blaming themselves for the incident, which is quite common, forgiveness was the only way to heal.

It surprises no one that, most likely, these victims were following their faith. Surely, there were a lot of prayers for wisdom involved first. And don’t think it was just a casual or easy decision. It couldn’t have been--they all knew the personal pain and anguish deep down in their souls. However, they already knew what it meant to receive forgiveness themselves.

Like all of us who know the God of Grace [undeserved favor], they understood the unimaginable Easter sacrifice it took on a cross to forgive them of their own sins, when they first asked Jesus to be their Redeemer. To remove the guilt forever. Jesus showed divine kindness and willingly did just that.

The True Easter Story
As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women.

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull [Golgotha], they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Then he [one of the criminals] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Then he [Joseph of Arimathea] took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.

But very early on [Easter] Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men [angels] asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

And just as they [the disciples] were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

And he [Jesus] said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.

Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.

The Easter story is an excerpt from the Holy Bible, Luke 23 and 24 (NLT) [emphasis added].

"But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too" Mark 11:25 NLT.