Monday, July 16, 2018

Where Is Your Focus as a Widow?

Bloom Where You Are Planted
Today, Fresh Start Momentum continues a SUMMER SISTER SERIES highlighting the lives of some famous and amazing women who might just encourage us in our own struggles. True stories that can give us insights for our lives in the 21st Century and how all women--married or not--have always been important throughout history. Relax as we cheer on our "sisters" and their stunning journeys.

Solving Nightmares
Each week we are presenting a woman that can teach us life lessons. Someone who is not perfect, but is human like us. Some are single, single-again or widowed as in today's story. The timeline may be ancient but stay with us while we learn how God honored and used women throughout history. He still does.

No one can possibly know unless they have been one themselves, but the widow has a tremendous road to travel. Psychologists state it is one of life’s most traumatic losses next only to the loss of a child. Add to this the absence of income (if the husband was the only wage-earner), and then multiply it by the loneliness factor, as most widows live alone. It’s what nightmares are made of.

Anna was married just seven years when her husband died. She didn’t give up on life though. She followed in the footsteps of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah who all cared about their country’s relationship with the Lord. We could ask ourselves, how often do we pray for our country, state, and city? How about our leaders?

Anna was a godly woman who became a prophetess. In fact, she spent so much time in the Temple praying, she eventually made it her living arrangement! Considering her situation, we may wonder, why not?
Basilica of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Anna worshiped and fasted without a break. She literally devoted herself to the Lord. It sounds like she was waiting for instructions from the Lord, doesn’t it? It surely took a lot of listening. Maybe easier for her than in our high-tech world of noise and chaos.

When it came time for Mary and Joseph to present their child, Jesus, at the Temple, Anna was there. Notice she made herself available for God to use her. Anna witnessed the dedication, praised God, and then came over to speak to Mary and Joseph.

We can only imagine what was said. It appears she was more than delighted to see this child! She spoke about the Messiah to all who had been waiting for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Anna remained a widow all her days until she was 84.
Our Part and Purpose
We know women naturally live longer than men. This may be why God commanded us all to care for each other, especially widows, in whatever way we can. As we see in the life of Anna, our lives can make a difference to others, no matter what our status in life.

God has a purpose for each one of us in every walk of life. Let’s not waste our time on earth sitting in sorrow and loneliness. Find a "sister," friend, or mentor and become the light in their world! Then listen for the voice of God.

*The story of Anna can be found in the Bible, Luke 2:36-38.

If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone. 1 Timothy 5:16      

Monday, July 9, 2018

What Was Your Best Day?

Today, Fresh Start Momentum begins a SUMMER SISTER SERIES highlighting the lives of some famous and amazing women who might just encourage us in our struggles. True stories that can give us insights for our lives in the 21st Century and how all women--married or not--have always been important throughout history. Join us each Monday for the next five weeks as we showcase our "sisters."

Big Sisters Can Be a Blessing
Sometimes it takes a little faith and a head on our shoulders to get things done. In the process, we might even learn some hard lessons, as in the story about this amazing girl:

Miriam was no exception. Her brother was as famous as one could get. His name was Moses and Miriam saved his life right after he was born. At a young age of 12, she watched her mother devise a plan to place Moses into a waterproof basket and send it down the Nile River to safety. They did this to save him from being slaughtered along with all little Jewish boys as ordered by the king of Egypt.

Miriam carefully watched the basket and then witnessed Pharaoh’s daughter remove the baby, even though she knew he was a Hebrew baby doomed for death. Miriam was quick-thinking and told Pharaoh’s daughter she would help to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. The woman was actually Moses’ mother! Miriam was not only good under pressure but later became a leader during the Exodus, a prophetess, and a songwriter. Very ambitious, indeed!

Miriam, however, became jealous of Moses as he grew up and criticized his leadership. She also didn't care for his choice of a certain woman to become his wife. Sound familiar? To make things even worse, Miriam and another sibling expressed their resentment in public. And here was when Miriam had some hard lessons to learn about the motives behind destructive criticism of others.

Simple Answer, Difficult Problem
Many issues surely factor into why we find it so easy to criticize others. So many issues, in fact, it's best to speak to a doctor specializing in this area if we find criticism is a serious problem in our lives.   
True perfection found only in nature

In general, criticism can grow in us because we not only dislike what the other person is doing or how they are doing it. But because in some way or another, we believe it will negatively affect us or disturb our life. It's an ego problem in its simplest form. However, we can't possibly know what's in the other person's head. Only God can have that kind of insight.   

Most of the time, we allow our pride to convince us we are right and they are not. Then we go about trying to tell them how to live and placing blame. The result is mass destruction of the ugliest kind.

Five Constructive Measures We Can Use
1. Look at the motives behind our criticism.
2. Use praise first, then offer suggestions only.
3. Concentrate on the behavior, not the person.
4. Use examples from our own life.
5. Support the other person in finding ways to improve.

[Find Miriam’s story in the Holy Bible, Exodus 2 and 15; Numbers 12 and 20.]

For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you. Micah 6:4

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Who Is the Real "Me?"

Our identity is a valuable commodity. Experian Information Solutions (credit reporting company) reported 14.2 million credit cards were exposed in 2017 which is up 88% over 2016! In addition, 158 million social security numbers were exposed in 2017. We all probably know of someone—maybe even ourselves—that have had to go through the grief, pain, and hassle of trying to clear our name and identity after an incident of theft, home invasion, or personal information stolen through the internet. Sometimes it can take years to correct the situation and return to our own lives.
Maybe it’s slightly less serious—although still a hassle--for those of us who are single-again to create a new identity after divorce. We may simply want to return to our maiden name, open new bank accounts, and purchase property of some kind. But it isn’t as simple as we might imagine, especially if we were not the wage earner and all financial documents were acquired by our partner.

But it can be done. It just requires several steps, lots of patience, and quite some time to make it happen. Eventually, just like traveling to a foreign port, we arrive at our single-again destination with all our belongings in place. We survived the “trip.” Now we begin again and can enjoy the scenery!

Nothing Has Changed
Identity is established by several things. Not just our marital status, but in our own language, the family we were born into, and even our national identity. It would be extremely difficult—if at all--to change any of that. It is our personal identity and it also includes our physical attributes: hair, eyes, skin color, height, smile. This is how we were created, and it cannot be changed on a whim. You are “Me.”

Sure, we know features can be cosmetically changed like the color of our hair, for instance. But, obviously, it is temporary. Much to our distress, our original color grows back! Colored contacts? Yes, they are popular. But we usually must take them out to sleep and guess what? The eye color we were born with has not changed. Our identity has not changed. God created us one exact way—with no mistakes--and no matter what human “invention” or “operation” we may try, we are still “me” and he knows us.

Thankfully, he does know the real “Me.” Take time to read (and even memorize) the entire Psalm 139 and you’ll know exactly who loves you inside and out! He knows every single day of our lives from beginning to end even before we were born. That is so miraculous! How many hairs do we have on our head? We don’t know (and that number does change every day, every year, right?). But God knows the exact number; why does he even care? Where have all the tears we have shed gone? Can we count them? God knows because he has collected each one of them in a bottle and recorded them in his book! Oh, my, yes, it’s true! [Psalm 56:8].

Out of Bad, Comes Good
So, no matter what has happened to us, God knows it all. But be clear about this one fact: he did not cause any of our pain and sorrow. God never wanted any of those horrible days to occur to us and, in fact, he was right there beside us holding our hand because he loves us. We are here, are we not? He had plans for us then and he still has plans for us now. Out of all the “Bad,” God makes “Good” if we trust in Him.

“When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am GOD, your personal God. . .that’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!” (Isaiah 43:2-4 MSG).

Monday, July 2, 2018

What Does Freedom Actually Mean?

Two hundred and forty-two years ago this week the United States claimed its independence from England. It was no simple or easy idea that sparked the desire to live separate and unconnected from a country who had already been in existence for over 400 years. It was surely a glorious day after much struggle, effort, and determination. A day we now celebrate with fireworks, backyard Barbeques, and summer travel.

Which brings up a question. How much of this country have you seen in your lifetime? There are some pretty amazing discoveries right on our own soil and we have the freedom to do that now as single-again women. Who says we have to sit home and get stuck in our own restraints? We may have had a mental Bucket List for years swimming around in our heads. So let’s start planning!   

For example, the U. S. Congress reports that the Four Corners Monument is the only place in the U.S. where you can stand in four states at the same time! It is the spot where a surveyor from the 1800s marked the meeting of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Talk about killing two--or in this case four--birds with one stone!

And if you really want to enjoy a clear day, swallow your fear of heights and climb up 102 stories (above the muck of pollution) to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. There you can actually see the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania all at once. Amazing. We have much to celebrate about this beautiful and FREE country--don’t miss it.

Pride and Prejudice
Some people get the wrong idea about freedom, though. It can be seen as being able to do anything we want without constraint, without any rules or laws. No one holding us down. We become the “ruler” over our own lives. With that kind of viewpoint, we can get ourselves into trouble we never expected or wanted.

Looking back, we can see that after our divorce--and maybe even during the horrible ordeal--we perhaps acted giddy and foolish with all the “freedom” we had acquired. Thinking we had no one to answer to, we streaked head first like some "super girl" at the finish line. There are things that we probably regret now that we have come to our senses once again. We are not alone in this realization by any means.

There is no denying we are smart and powerful women. We all have what it takes to get where we want to go. We know this because of what we have already gone through just to get here. Here. Now. The Present. It’s real. We know how to achieve “freedom” and still be sensible and safe. What we work on now is how to activate and incorporate all of our ideas, wishes, dreams, and goals.

Mercy Triumphs
Since the beginning of time, there have been commandments, laws, and rulings. These were not established to constrain us like citizens of a dictatorship. Oh, no! This was God's way to protect us and give us real freedom to love Him and to love our neighbor as ourself. Period. That simple. He shows us mercy and gives us the understanding to achieve the abundant life we so want. It’s His way. His character. He is our Good, Good Father, unlike any father we have ever known. Celebrate that freedom today!

“So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you" (James 2:12-13 NLT).

Monday, June 25, 2018

What Can We Do About Stress?

"Always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult. . ." (Rainer Maria Rilke, Bohemian-Austrian Poet, 1875-1926).

This quote might have just been the perfect encouragement written on a greeting card and then given to the 515 participants of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. Surely it took lots of patience to get through the eight rounds of the competition. Finally, a fourteen-year-old boy from McKinney, Texas, Karthik Nemmani was declared the winner. With apparent courage, but maybe not as much confidence as we would think, he correctly spelled the word "koinonia." Some of us may have stumbled over our tongue trying to say, spell, or define that word which means "Christian fellowship or communion with God, or more commonly with fellow Christians." 

Patience Perfected
In our single-again lives, seems like we should each adopt the Rilke quote above as our own encouragement and read it daily. We absolutely need all the patience we can get because life has a nagging way of creating stress everywhere we turn. The woman in the elevator seems completely put together. Our neighbor is the best mom on the block. Our friend has boundless energy that we crave. We get passed over at work for a promotion because we lack certain credentials. 

The list is endless and more items are attached each day. Finances, coworkers, hunger or dehydration, needing a break, solving a personal problem, and on and on. What can we do about it? The next time you feel hands clenching, irritability, or a muscle kink in your neck, stop and try these: 

Breathe in deep and slow, then out even slower. 
Recline into a comfortable position and practice releasing tension head to toe. 
Turn on quiet, instrumental music and really listen to it. 
Be open to finding causes for the impatience.
Join a support team and call someone instead of drowning in anger.

Be a Believer
Of course, none of us will ever be perfect. We will have ups and downs, sometimes on a daily basis. Impatience and even anger are normal human traits but we don't need to let them change our core personality. The key is deciding what to do with these emotions when they invade our lives. Start with believing in yourself as a strong woman. You can do this! With that belief in place, we can decide to "boil over" with destructive emotions or get serious about managing our lives in a positive way. It's up to us. There is much you can do immediately, so click on this resource to get started: 

Mind Tools to Handle Stress

Best Seller
Did you know the very best instruction book to handle our stress, impatience, anger, difficulties, and endurance is a best seller and has never been out of print? True. Besides chapters and verses, it contains a "Help" menu in the back section. Just look up any of the above emotions and it will give you the answer to solve the problem. Amazing! It's called the Bible and is our best reference book by far!     

"May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus" (Romans 15:5 NLT).

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Achieve Peace by Leaving Room

Some of us had a fondness for "Pig-Pen" from the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. A little boy who just couldn't stay out of the dirt (sound familiar?). We could relate because no one is perfect! Another famous person, Max Lucado, wrote a tiny little book called God Thinks You're Wonderful! In it the author writes, 

"Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he [God] saw us before we were born. And he loves what he sees."   

Don't let anyone tell you differently; he still loves what he sees, even though we are divorced! Our messy life won't stop him. God sees our hurting heart and he understands. He is on our side to help us through these difficult days. Here is a clue: all the answers won't come right away. 

It would be wonderful if we did understand completely right from the start of our new journey why and how it all happened. But the truth is, we have much to learn first in order to survive all the feelings that bombard us. The good news here is that because we have already made it this far, we can be assured we have been blessed with the strength to endure one more day, and then another, and then another.

Space and Time
Sure, it would be a lot easier to just stay in bed all day with the covers over our head. We wouldn't have to deal with anyone or anything. Sounds good. . . then what? Eventually, we would smell stinky and need a shower like little "Pig-Pen." Maybe something to eat. And worse, the emotions would still be present waiting for instructions like a little kid. All this sounds very much like suffocation!     

There are better ways to deal with the healing process and avoid smothering ourselves. The goal is to move forward so space and time are ours to keep on our own terms. We must leave room for ourselves to become "us," only better. And it can be done, if we choose. There's that scary word: choose. It's risky, but entirely up to us. No one is going to make us do anything. If we want a better life, we must take responsibility to make it happen. Remember, Someone bigger than all this is on our side. Ready?

Leave room to grow. Whatever was not working for us before can be changed. Talk to people who are supportive. Listen to those who know; they are the ones who have been in your shoes. But, take advice with a grain of salt from those who say they understand, but have never been divorced.

Leave room to indulge. If one day seems just too difficult, stay away from those suffocating covers. Instead, indulge in a warm bubble bath, go out with a friend, browse a bookstore, eat in a fancy restaurant. Whatever you need to convince yourself life is worth living at least for another 24 hours. 

Leave room to cry, scream, or pound a pillow. Yup! You'd be surprised how much better you'll feel when you get those negative feelings out for good. There's no shame in it. You may need to buy a new pillow though (Smile!). The best way to do this so it doesn't destroy you or anyone else is to set a time limit. Give yourself seven minutes and no more. Then it's over until another day.  

Leave room to be real. Find what sparks your interest and get involved. Remember, the world is still spinning outside your door. Go be part of it and start the rebuilding process. 

Achieving Peace
It's natural to be upset with God. This is not an angry God that wants to see you suffer. He not only loves you, he IS love. Think hard about that. He's not going to leave you in this dark place, so talk to Him about it. Be honest. He knows what you are going through! Achieving peace in your life is His blessing to you. Make it happen and you'll be on your way.   

"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!" (Psalm 139:13-14a NLT).

Monday, June 18, 2018

18 Simple Ideas for Summer

Summer is for relaxing and taking much-needed breaks, wouldn't you say? So let's keep it simple today and see what we can do to make life a little bit better now that almost half of 2018 is behind us. Congratulations! You've come a long way! 

Without getting too serious (who needs that when we are looking forward to summer vacation?), see if any of the following eighteen simple ideas will boost your life:

Simplify. Nothing wrong with paper. Digital calendars are fine for what they can do faster. Then they crash, we lose information and our minds! Do yourself a favor and shop for a mid-year day planner. Really. 

Organize. Make sure your purse has a pocket for everything: cosmetics, phone, keys, pens, water bottle, and of course, day planner. Let your purse double as a tote instead of carrying both.     

Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. Use it under make-up and at bedtime after cleaning. Takes years off the face.

Do one good and new thing for your health. Change to smoothies for breakfast. Switch to a new salad dressing. Do spinning instead of Zumba for exercise. Anything that’s new creates happy momentum. 

Connect. Instead of texting, call someone for an invite to lunch. 

Tackle the next thing on your Bucket List.

Find God. Find Peace. Don’t do life alone! He’s waiting.

Exchange a real book in print with a friend. Or stop by your local library for a free one. Radical!

Bake extra cupcakes and bring a few to a shut-in neighbor.

Pick a subject you know nothing about and take a class.

Practice saying “No” once in awhile instead of resenting your “Yes.”

Declutter your home office. Place some things out-of-reach to force yourself to get out of your chair now and then. 

Clean out the freezer. Not everything will keep for the next nine years!

Buy your own Christian Bible and read for just seven minutes a day (or night). 

"Wind Chime" Flower
Plant something unusual this year like White Alpine Strawberries - a gourmet treat; Sunzilla Sunflowers - they are Giant!; or Parrot Tulips for multicolor magic!

Explore where you’ve never been (besides countries or states), how about the symphony, underground caves, a rodeo, or a fashion show. There are a million things out there!

Splurge this one time and hire a maid to do spring cleaning top to bottom.

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Have fun and keep going! Remember God loves your heart and wants to see you enJOYing the abundant life He gave you. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23 NLT).