Monday, October 23, 2017

How to Celebrate October

What could be better than this time of year? The colors, smells and cooler weather are a time to rejoice. It's fun to begin by gathering leaves, nuts, straw, acorns, pine cones and corn husks to craft into door wreaths.  Fall is a favorite with so many people that we have created holidays and festivals to enjoy throughout the season. Lots of things to do. Places to go. People to meet. 

Hands of Love
Of course, our ancestors didn't need to make special days, it just happened with all the gathering of farm crops; a lot of work for sure! More work than most of us would willingly want to do. Although, obviously, we still have farms to grow our food, sadly, we have much less of them in the 21st century. 

So, whether we are farmers, or not, having a time to celebrate the harvest is a very good thing! During the months of September, October and way into November we can be thankful for all the blessings we have received by continuing, or even creating new traditions for ourselves and our families.

Hearts of Gold
Harvest is a time for celebrating many crops that are grown and picked all over the U.S. at this time of year. Depending on what part of the country we live in, apples, grapes, corn, and pecans are among the many Fall crops that can all be enjoyed. Farmers especially in Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington are busy plucking apples, the Northern Midwest states are knee deep in the Corn Belt, and New England wades in the cranberries. [A bit of disclaimer here: I am definitely not a farmer, so don't shoot the messenger, o.k. - smile!]  

Harvest of Pumpkins
Pumpkins grow best in full sun. So it's a bit curious the Top Five states for pumpkin growing are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. They are, of course, popular anywhere in the Fall. Many towns, like my own, have pumpkin farms open to the public to pick their own. These are sometimes combined with baking competitions, horseback rides, and hayrides. Most have country stores that sell handcrafted items and yummy homemade goods. It wouldn't be the same without the jams, apple butter, and pumpkin pie. What a delight!  

Combine these for a Quick Treat: Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt
Greek yogurt
Pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
Cocoa powder

Enjoy. Nothing easier!

"You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance" Psalms 65:11 NLT.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where is Your Story Going?

Tunneling Through Life
We nervously approached our court day, and then the judge loudly banged his gavel and announced we could begin our lives over. It was both heart-wrenching and heart-relieving all at once. Even though we never intended for a breakup to happen, our relationship, in fact, ended after much confusion, frustration, and pain. The prolonged tenseness was released, like coming out of a dark tunnel.  

The darkness we endured during the last days (or years) of our marriage may have lingered longer than we would have liked, but the light ahead was surely dawning. In December 2016, “the world’s longest and deepest [train] traffic tunnel” was opened to passengers in Switzerland. Running through the Alps for a total of 94.349 miles and traveling at a speed of 155 miles per hour, the Gotthard Base Tunnel must be a scary ride! The light at the end was most likely much welcomed. We can understand how this would feel. We have experienced our own scary “tunnel.”

Once we reached our destination as a single-again woman, the light was almost blinding. We had to “blink” several times to readjust. We just were not expecting our future to suddenly be so stark. It caused feelings many of us were never contemplating. So what did we do? We naturally panicked, quite understandable in such a situation. But we knew we weren’t the only ones who experienced this phenomenon.

Hurdles in Our Way
After getting over our initial response, knowing how to handle life was another difficulty. And this is where the problem began of sabotaging ourselves and our future. Of course, we didn’t just sit down and say, “Today I think I will block anything good that might happen to me.” No, we wanted the opposite. So what happened?

Consciously or subconsciously, we sometimes stand in our own way to avoid something great that could happen in our lives. We are afraid to face the potential good. If we stop to think about it, could we identify some of these hurdles:

  • Skipped out on a job interview for no good reason
  • Made repeated excuses for not joining a new hobby group
  • Gave no attention to studying for a college entrance exam
  • Avoided cleaning out the clutter in the house

All of these kinds of acts damage our intentions of moving ahead with our lives. They do us no good at all. They only stall us from finding meaning and purpose. Once we decide we deserve to have a great life--which we most certainly do--we can start to build momentum in that direction. We won’t any longer sit back and wonder, “How in the world does that woman get so many opportunities?” “How does she do it?” The answer is she doesn’t impair her chances. She doesn’t hold back when she wants something good. She chooses to jump over the hurdle instead of letting it hold her back.    

We all have a story. Have you ever seen a movie or read a fiction story where the creator gave the reader options for an ending? You got to choose how it would go to your own liking. Our story is the same. We have the ability to change the outcome as it best fits our own situation. Your story will not be the same as the woman next to you. Nor should it be. We each have numerous choices to create a life that will make a difference to ourselves and, more importantly, to affect others in an encouraging and positive way. What ending will you choose?

The One Who Knows You
God also has a creation story just about you. It sums up just how important you are to Him:

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” Psalm 139:14-16 NLT.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Is Life Too Hard?

Do you feel trapped?
It may sound silly, but have you ever said to yourself--or maybe out loud--Why does life have to be so crazy hard? It sure can feel that way sometimes, like being trapped without a way out. Nothing works out the way we plan. Obstacles get in the way of want we want to do. Everything we touch gets broken, beaten, or bankrupt.

It’s enough to make us want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head. Trouble with that passive non-solution is it just doesn’t work. The problems are still there when we finally kick ourselves out of bed. We still have to decide what to do with the mess.

If making it through college seems impossible, keep a girl named Helen Keller in mind. She spent her childhood blind and deaf. But that didn’t stop her from becoming the first disabled person to earn a bachelor’s degree. She went on to fight for women’s rights.

There are actually people who are scared to death of deep water and especially oceans. But not Bethany Hamilton; she loved surfing. When she was 13 years old, she was out having so much fun in the ocean. The next thing she knew, her left arm was missing! A shark attack almost took her life. Did she quit? Oh, no. She went on to win first place in the national surfing championships.

Drama and trauma burst into the teen life of Charlize Theron (yes, that Charlize!) as she watched her mother kill her alcoholic father in self-defense. Of course, we know she didn’t let this horrific scene stop her from becoming an Academy Award winning actress.

Powerful Women Have “Punch”
Since we don’t have those courageous people in front of us to ask how they personally got through such adversity in their lives, we can only deal with our own daily pain. We ask ourselves some hard questions and force ourselves not to turn away from the answers.

Striving for balance in our lives
We have choices, just like the determined people above. Are we happy staying stuck in our current situation? What reasons can we come up with, so we don’t have to deal with life any more? If we don’t like those questions and the possible answers, the better option would be to figure out what is holding us back from a great future. Because when it comes right down to it, we are powerful women and still have plenty of “punch” left in us!
  • Our Story: I’m too busy. We can definitely fill up our days with all sorts of things we think we want to do. Marathon TV watching, sleeping in till noon, procrastinating, and avoidance to name a few. Our Ending: How many of those activities will get us the life we dream of? No one else will do it for us.

  • Our Story: I’m too tired. Taking care of ourselves is primary to having the energy we need to tackle the issues in our lives. This means proper nutrition, exercise, and rest. Our Ending: What one thing can we do today to create healthy balance in our lives?

  • Our Story: Life is too hard. The thoughts of Theodore Roosevelt are still true today,  “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.” Our Ending: How badly do we want a better life?

How Prayer Can Help
Life is definitely very hard. No one can disagree with that statement. And for women doing life on their own, it seems even more so. God knew we would feel this way and so He sent us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide us in prayer. Just ask.

When we are too busy - pray for peace in the midst of overwhelming burdens.
When we are too tired - pray for strength in our bodies and minds.
When life is too hard - pray for faith to make it through the day.

“And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” 1 John 5:15 NLT.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What’s Your Next Queue?

While savoring our first or second cup of morning coffee or tea, maybe at our local brewery, we may be thinking of our long To Do list for the day after the kids are safely in school. Funny how yesterday we thought that list was going to get shorter. But somehow, it’s right back again today with twenty different things to handle. Will it ever go away so we can have time for ourselves? Depends.

Grrr! It’s endless. So we may be asking ourselves how in the world other women get all the chores and errands done in a 24-hour day. Certainly there are women out there that are experts at organizing and planning. In fact, many have made careers out of becoming professional organizers and it’s fascinating, especially if we are not gifted in that particular area.

Your Queue: First Things First
There are companies who pride themselves at teaching their employees how to organize themselves. In fact, one such company (which will go unnamed) bases the annual review of an employee on that exact subject. Years ago (most likely before all the personal tech items were available) this company held mandatory classes in maintaining a personal and work-related Day Planner and they were quite serious about it. The employee was required to bring the Planner with them to the review. Their annual salary was based on that Day Planner! That’s how important the whole organizing and planning aspect was to them.

Having personal skills to stay organized is a valuable life lesson for sure. This is why there are so many tech tools, programs, apps, classes, etc to help us all out of our daily chaos. It’s a big business. And getting organized can help us to get those errands and projects in our lives done. If “tech” isn’t your thing, go the “old school” way and figure out first things first--your queue--on paper.  

Priorities is what it is all about. A great way to do this is list everything that needs to be done in the next 24 hours as you think of them, including big and little things. Don’t forget to include appointments and meetings. Next, assign a letter to each item, like A for All-important, B for Bite (as it will come back and bite you), and C for Cramp (too many things pushed until tomorrow will cramp your style). If you are more visual, color coding works too. It might look like this (don’t go crazy, they don’t have to be in order):

C - Clean out pantry.
A - Annual Doctor visit today.
B - Get tires rotated on car.
A - Pick up daughter after dance lesson.
B - Drop off library books.
A - Type up draft for tomorrow's meeting.
C - Plant fall flowers in garden.
B - Get to the gym.
A - College accounting exam this evening.

O.k., you’ve got this. Now tackle all the urgent “A” items first, then “B” if you possibly can, and finally “C,” or they can be pushed to tomorrow, if needed. Whether it’s a printed Day Planner, or a digital device calendar, once you get the hang of this, your days will go much smoother from here on out.

Only One AA Item
There is only one category that is considered an AA item, and it’s not a battery. The rest of the A, B, C list will never work out as planned without first making Quiet Time with God each morning. This is your AA item. Don’t ignore it or push it to the C list because you’ll be left wondering how you went in circles and arrived right back at a state of chaos and confusion.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5 NLT.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Are You Putting Your Life On Hold?

It takes lots of courage, or what some of our grandmas called chutzpah, to get used to waking up each morning by ourselves. Living alone requires confidence and a determination to change our lives for the better. It’s not easy, for sure. No one ever said it would be. We can, however, breathe deeper and just know we are going to make it.  

We are going to make the bed, make the coffee, and make breakfast that we put on a plate with a napkin and enjoy the morning sunshine. Because we deserve joy. We simply can’t miss this opportunity that we’ve been given to make a 180 degree turn. We’re moving and growing and getting stronger by the minute! And isn’t that what we wanted all along?

Hold On
Many women struggle with this idea of a solo journey. And sometimes there are others who insist on telling us not to worry, someone just right for you will come along. This can be very discouraging, as it infers we are not o.k. the way we are at the moment. And that is simply not true at all. So, let’s not get discouraged. We know who we are and what we want. And, amazingly, it may not be a new man in our lives right now.

It’s enough to concentrate on developing our possibilities and passions. Just discovering what we can or want to do with our lives will begin to create this whole new person who is competent, capable, and courageous. And that is a very attractive personality trait. We find out we never have to strive and wrestle with finding someone to share our lives. It will just naturally happen when we least expect it and when it is meant to happen.

Which brings us to another point. Some women put their lives on hold waiting for Mr. Right. They stress and worry and wonder how they can possibly attract another marriage partner. They simply refuse to be happy until this happens. Many times the search continues day after day while they are not even past the hurt, defeat, and humiliation of the previous union. This can be the perfect ingredient for another painful relationship.

The joy in all this is we were each made for a particular and definite purpose. We only need to recognize the colors and flavors that will bring spice to our lives. The hobbies we really love doing, the one event that makes us happier than all the others, the abilities we already have that can enhance our experiences. If we put effort into remembering way back when we had dreams that were never fulfilled, we will automatically know in which direction to go with our lives.

And, THEN, while “doing life” in this way, we become fulfilled and enlightened to what we were supposed to do with our lives all along. Here’s the key: while enjoying ourselves and finding our purpose, we just might find ourselves in the middle of a new relationship. Or not. It’s our choice--we have the freedom at that point. And that’s a beautiful thing!

Your Forever Love
One very important focal point to guide our journey is to remember: God did not promise us a spouse, no matter what anyone says. He may bring one to us anyway, but it is not a given. Just don’t lose hope; being single is not a curse. What God did promise to each and every one of us is that He will NEVER leave or forsake us. Ever! He is the One who loves us with a deep and forever love.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is There An Opposite in Your Life?

Do I Know You? 
It’s fascinating to see opposites living in nature. A cute animal attracted to its counter part. A litter of brown and white puppies, but just one is completely white. A litter of kittens, all gray and brown and just one is orange striped. The sun and the moon are opposites as are land and sea. How does a beautiful flower grow by itself in the middle of the harsh desert anyway?

Do Opposites Really Attract?
It appears this is true in much of creation. But it may or may not be true when talking about human relationships. We’ve seen or even experienced ourselves a couple who appear compatible, but are complete opposites. . .at least on the surface.

Many times a stark difference in personalities, values, likes and dislikes may seem exciting at first--filling in the gaps of what we think we don’t possess--but eventually, we realize something is wrong. Sometimes, we can't even identify the source of our unrest, but it’s there. If it goes on without any communication or resolution, it causes bumps, wrinkles, and anemia that goes deep into our souls.

Sometimes we don’t discover the “opposite” in our lives is weighing us down and causing a sense of dread. We find ourselves not answering the phone calls, avoiding dates with the new person in our lives, and making excuses or, worse yet, blaming ourselves for allowing the person to attract us in the first place.

But we are all humans. It happens. We can forgive ourselves for repeat offenses and learn from the past. Change is possible any time we put enough effort into finding the answer. One way is to train ourselves to recognize what we do not want in our lives; in other words, changing negatives to positives.

Opposites Game with a Twist
Match up the words in the first list with the opposite words in the second list (if it’s easier, list them in two columns on a piece of paper and draw lines connecting the two words). This is all about you, so there could be more than one choice in your selections, but choose only one to connect for now. Keep an open mind; there really is no right answer. Just have fun! Here's the twist: you will have one word in the second list left over. More on that later.



Which list would you say is driving your current relationship? Which list contains the most words you can identify with right now? Now, circle your leftover word in the second list. This is the one clue of what to work on first in your life; the rest will follow.

Your Counselor in All Relationships
God has a hopeful plan for each one of us! He uses the Bible to give us His answer to ALL our dilemmas, hurts, mistakes, and regrets. We can bring Him all our questions. His list of words are endless and each one is the right word every time for you!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT)

Monday, October 2, 2017

How to Get Out of the Money Trap

Feeling Trapped?
We love it and we hate it. Money, that is. Has there ever been a “trap” in our lives that is more controlling than this paradox? We can’t live without it if we want food and shelter, yet when we have enough, we strive to get even more and more and never reach personal satisfaction. It is, perhaps, the biggest concern of ours right now given we have just begun a new life.  

“After cashing a check at the bank, the woman in front of me stood staring at her money. "Did I give you enough back?" asked the teller. "Yes," she said. "But barely." (Reader’s digest: Money Jokes). It’s truly amazing how fast money goes right out of our pocket! When we finally get our paycheck, there is a very long list of where and how we spend our money. It can go in hundreds of directions. And the money runs out before we even get to the bottom of the list.

The Hole Keeps Getting Deeper
Unfortunately, many people depend on credit to get them there. Excess credit cards with balances that are “maxed” out, extremely large loans including home loans, and even borrowing from friends and family. At some point in our lives, we have all done it. This is enticingly a debt trap that is extremely difficult to get out of. A vicious circle. A catch-22.

There is a true story of a woman [name here is unnecessary] who was whirling from this exact scenario. When she got a divorce (the money problem was only one of many issues at this point), there were eleven credit cards, all “maxed” out and a house neither she nor her soon-to-be ex-husband could afford. The house went up for sale and the credit cards were divided up to be paid off. Not a good start to a brand new life!

Sometimes, it can take years to get out of debt. It’s painful. Humiliating. Embarrassing. But possible. Very possible, if we are determined to make it work. And work is exactly what it takes. The outcome may be slow as we go inch by inch to create a much better life. But watching it happen is truly satisfying to say the least. Anyone can do it.

Re-build Your Life
So, how can we reach this point of being debt free? It seems there are as many books on the subject as there is money in the bank! So be careful who you listen to  and what you read to be true. There are, however, reliable and credible experts in the money management field who can help get us there (see a couple links below).   

Some of the following examples, suggestions, and encouragement, might help to get started with this important life-building plan. This will move your plan ahead of the game when you decide to take a class, meet with a money counselor, or take an online course.

  • Grab a notebook. On the first page, draw a line down the middle creating two columns.
  • First Column: “Liabilities.” List every single thing that is owed including very small to very large items. Not just the monthly mortgage/rent and other bills, but also people borrowed from, collection items, and that “bounced” check at the bank. Everything.
  • Second Column: “Assets.” List every bit of income of any kind that comes in during the month on a regular basis. This could include a paycheck, crafty side business, home computer services, babysitting, disability check, etc etc. Also list the value of every asset owned, like the house, car, boat, and larger furniture.
  • Breathe. This exercise may take awhile and it might be difficult at first, if it’s never been done before. But the purpose is to know exactly what is available in our pocket and what is not. There is no solving a problem without knowing what is going on. This can be eye-opening, but will provide valuable information to get started. Experts, agencies, or counselors will ask for this kind of list.
  • Budget. Yes, it’s a “horrible” thought. Teeth-clenching. But without it, the lists above will be useless. The nice thing is, once created and used, this monthly habit will feel “weird” if skipped.  

It’s too big of a subject to cover thoroughly here, and there are many individual and unique methods that are useful, so if unsure how to create a workable budget, get some help! But don’t just not do it because it is THE key to finding peace about the money situation.

The following links will definitely be concrete ways to help solve any debt problem and start a much better life. DON’T give up--it’s worth it!

Where Does It Come From and How Do We Get It?
We may never have thought about it much, but ALL of our money and whatever possessions we may have were generously given and will continue to be provided by only one Source, the Lord God Almighty. He hates to see us struggle. That is why He has a plan for us. God wants us to use our money wisely. When we do, He provides even more. When we give back to him on a regular basis, He gives us even more! It’s true, He says to test Him on this.

“. . .Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10 NLT.