Friday, August 7, 2009

Finding Balance

"The LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the EL of my life."—Psalms 42:8

Michael Hyatt wrote, "Most people believe that somehow, if they can just find the right system, they can get everything done. I think this is a myth bordering on an outright lie. You can't do it all. Time is a limited resource. This is just something you have to understand and accept. You only need to get the right things done and leave the rest with God. You're only human and you can only do so much."

Balance equals how many plates I can spin on emaciated financial and emotional poles. I work 2-3 jobs and struggle, never getting everything done at home. I eliminate and concentrate. I set my alarm for 3 a.m. so I can study my Bible, but even then, open eyes and Bible equal "kid magnet." I never feel like there is time for me.

Too many responsibilities, demands and unexpected surprises blur time and priorities.

Now that my launched sons are productive adults and I'm an empty nester, I feel guilt looking back and thinking, "I wish I'd prioritized better…done more…spent more time with my precious sons." Today I enjoy "me" time —pursing the passions God embedded in my heart's spiritual DNA.

I can't survive without El Chay, the God of My Life.

El Chay, I long for you in my life. When my tears stream day and night and haunting fears taunt, "Where is your God?" I can tell you everything I feel and think without fear of rejection. Thank you for listening and replacing my despair with hope in you, my helper, the God of my life.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pruning Dead Wood from My Life


"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. John 15:2; Galatians 5:22. (NASB)

Pruning Dead Wood

from My Life

A peach tree stands guard in front of my house. The person who planted it set it too close to my home's foundation. My sons and squirrels scramble up its limbs to access the roof.

The coming of spring does not produce beautiful blossoms. During summer, my peach tree remains barren. It litters my lawn with leaves in the fall. Winter storms bang its limbs against my house. Other than shade, this tree is a nuisance.

My neighbor, a master gardener, suggested severely pruning the tree to force the sap into more vigorous limbs to produce fruit.

Still no fruit.

Life without love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control reminds me of my peach tree, without fruit and useless.

The sharp pruning shears of single parenting regularly hack away at my negative character traits. Far too often than I'd like to admit, the stresses of dual parenting force out the worst in me. To bear good fruit in my soul, I've learned to trim away the dead wood—toxic relationships and attitudes that drain my faith.

I don't want to be dead wood in the lives of others. I want to be someone who encourages others to blossom and produce fruit in a manner worthy of the Lord.

Lord, I want the fruit of my life, my actions and my attitudes, to be a visible expression of your inward working in me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Expect Delays

"The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.—Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

Expect Delays

The lighted yellow dots on the computerized signal spelled, "EXPECT DELAYS."

With directions in hand and my foot on the accelerator, I looked forward to meeting Gloria in Castle Rock for a little girlfriend time. As I zipped past the foreshadowing flashes of the signal, my radio blasted, "Be Still and Know that I Am God."

Suddenly, every lane on the freeway stopped—dead.

My tires sat stock-still on the fiery pavement. My soul was not still—it was hot and irritated. What? It's Saturday. Why is the freeway backed up?

I love the feel of a 75-mile-per-hour trajectal towards my destination.

Traffic crept and I called my friend to let her know we might miss the start time of our movie. "Not to worry," she said. "We'll regroup when you get here."

I relaxed.

Traffic again accelerated to full speed ahead. I'd already totaled one car on this never-ending road construction, car crash corridor; so I nervously negotiated my car in my lane between a cement barrier and semi-trucks driving far too close to my door handle for comfort.

Traffic stopped again. Again? Arggg! I spotted a dirt escape route to a road paralleling the interstate. I broke away from the pack and guided my car onto the muddy, dirt trail, pulling onto the old highway. Feeling victorious, I sped alongside the cars stopped on their tire treads. I passed the traffic stopper—an accident—said a prayer for the injured parties and cruised onto an on-ramp, depositing my car back on a near empty expressway.

One accident, two "Two Men in a Truck®" trucks lounging on the shoulder, a million rubberneckers, and several slow-down-fines-doubled road construction sites stretched the thirty-minute drive into an hour+.

This drive reminded me of my journey with God. I enjoy setting my cruise control, sitting back, cranking up the praise and worship music, and whizzing along at full speed with no distractions.

But far too often stress and obstacles punctuate my start, stop, go, slow down, speed-up life. Road construction, accidents, sidetracks, and unexpected delays put the brakes on my progress towards my goals, or so I think.

Life interruptus gets in the way of my dreams and aspirations. And often the reinforced barriers erected to keep me safe make me feel trapped. But the pauses of life drive me to engage in pressing heart matters. The stillness of immobility reminds me that God is at work on my behalf. Even though I make my plans, God directs my path.

Lord, I'm so grateful that even when I'm impatient and driven, you are at work in my life patiently guiding, protecting and perfecting my faith.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why Do I Study the Bible?

"I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. Psalm 119:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

Why Do I Study the Bible?

Before my sons were born, my father died suddenly. My first look at him lying in the casket prompted this thought. That is not my dad. My dad is with Jesus.

I felt happy for Dad, then panicked. His brain is gone and so is everything he learned about the Bible!

A soft voice whispered to my heart, "That knowledge has not vanished. It's in your Bible and you can know it for yourself."

While married, I joined a Precept Bible study. The inductive study method provided the tools I needed to know how to explore God's Word for myself. Like Daddy, I now found my greatest passion was to search the pages of the Bible discovering exciting spiritual truths.

I love to study God's Word. It provides wisdom, guidance and inspiration. The more I study, the less I know and the more I want to know God.

People say that the Bible has little application our daily lives, pointing to ritual uncleanness, animal sacrifices, stoning adulterers, not eating shrimp, and Baal and Molech idol worship.

I've seen some use the Bible to debate and prove their pet theologies. I've been disappointed by some who teach God's Word, but don't observe his commandments.

Others use science to disprove the Bible. The Bible is more than an "ology"—the organized study of science.

It is life.

I study Scripture because I want to know what I believe and why. And it's enjoyable.

When betrayed by others, I was desperate for comfort and encouragement. I turned to God's Word.

Scripture answers many questions that I pose to God:

  • God, who do you say you are?
  • God, who do you say I am?
  • God, what do you say you will do?
  • God, what do you say I am to do?

I was mentored by a famous author who told me, "I read through the Bible every year." More obvious to me was how the Bible went through her. When I asked her advice, it was the opposite of what I'd normally do. When I did what she said, it worked.

I want to know how the reality and truth of the Bible works in my life. When asked then I can share timeless truths to encourage and comfort others.

The Heart (broken) Beat of Scripture

"I love the LORD, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!" Gracious is the LORD and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate. I was brought low, and He saved me." Psalm 116:1-6 (NASB)

The Heart(broken) Beat of Scripture

My husband's unfaithfulness propelled me into single parenthood with a three-year-old son and a nine-month-old son. Terrified and alone, I felt as if I belonged nowhere and to no one.

Abandonment enrolled me in an advanced crash course in life with God. Tsk Tskers brushed off my pain. "Tsk, tsk, God works for good, blah blah blah," disqualifying my feelings, which were normal.

Unable to find understanding, I turned to the heart(broken)beat of scripture. The Psalms expressed everything I felt: rejection, anger, despair, depression, sorrow.

Psalms also comforted me with everything I needed to hear. I am not alone. I belong to God who is my refuge, my fortress, my shield, my defender, my rescuer, my deliverer, and my redeemer.

God, thank you for letting me vent. You heard my cries, offering your strength during the worst days of my life. I rejoice in your compassion and salvation.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Living Hard on the Outside—Soft on the Inside

"Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. 'Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.'" — 1 Peter 2:24; Psalm 147:3; James 5:16; Jeremiah 17:14 (NASB)

Living Hard on the Outside—

Remaining Soft on the Inside

Did you know that the pearl is the only "jewel" not formed from a lifeless rock? Created inside a living organism, a precious, beautiful pearl forms when the oyster's tears repeatedly coat an irritant infiltrating the mollusk's inner core. How ironic that the name "mollusk" comes from a Latin word meaning "soft."

The hard knocks of life turned out to be far more painful and tougher than I expected. Even so, I don't want evil or sin or loneliness or the hassles of life to harden my heart. So how can God form pearls from the hurts embedded in the tender regions of my heart?

In Matthew 13:44–46, Jesus' parable uses the imagery of a pearl, formed within a non-kosher environment, to refer to a treasure hunter. This buyer and seller of valuable pearls gets rid of his entire inventory to obtain one costly über pearl.

How often do I treasure my string of hurts, clinging to them? When the fragile rope binding together life's bitter disappointments breaks, I turn to God to air my frustrations, hurts, stresses, worries, and confess bad attitudes and my hurtful actions. The miracle of his healing balm fills the gaps in my heart left by cavernous wounds.

Just as the oyster's legacy is a pearl, I want the pearls strung on my spiritual necklace to reflect the luster and beauty of the treasure hidden in my heart—God's Word.

Thank you, Elohim, for creating me and pouring out your mercy, grace and healing on my life. How could I live without the precious treasure of your Word? Jehovah-Rapha, my healer, restores the broken places of my heart.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is My Heart Hard?

"Show no partiality to princes, nor regard the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands. The LORD raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes."—Job 34:19; Psalm 113:7–8 (NASB)

Is My Heart Hard?

Sometimes I worry, "Is my heart hard?"

Callous layers shield my heart from some religious leaders who claim to know and speak for God.

I took some disabled music lovers to a concert at church. We've been made to feel unwelcome by one leader who fears the unusual physical features of my buddy's disability make the better-looking members uncomfortable. Another worries that my friend's quiet Wookiee noises might break the concentration of the able bodied.

One developmentally-disabled friend does not understand that when he hears praise and worship music that he's supposed to remain quiet. Shhhhhh! Don't disturb those with far more sophistication. His rapt attention, smile, flapping arms, and joyful hoots encourage my heart to leap with joy.

Oh, to worship God with such unbridled freedom.

This particular concert drew attention to a missions project delivering refurbished wheelchairs to the disabled living in other countries where wheelchairs are not affordable. Before the concert began, Joni Earackson Tada spoke via video. She quoted Psalms 117:3: "The LORD raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes."

Her words pierced my heart. My tears relieved some of my worries that I am hardhearted.

Who Deserves Honor?

How does the Hebrew language in Psalms 113:7 describe the "poor"?

Feeble.

Low.

Powerless.

Weak.

Needy.

Society's discrimination of value stands in stark contrast to those God welcomes into his sanctuary and uplifts.

Who deserves honor? Those who honor others—including the feeble, the low, the powerless, the weak, and the needy. Why do some act as if the "poor" are not priceless members of God's family?

Contaminated by the pride of his social stature, superior religious knowledge and great abilities, a religious man noticed an ugly, misshapen person walking towards him. Feeling uncomfortable, the man turned his back.

Undeterred, Mr. Socially Ugly smiled and warmly greeted him.

The religionist's body language communicated, "Wow! Is he ever ugly. I'm so glad I don't look like that. I wonder if his family members are as ugly and misshapen as he is?"

To his surprise, Mr. Socially Ugly said, "I don't know, but I suggest you go to my Maker and tell him: 'How ugly and misshapen is this vessel you have made!' "

The Hebrew language describes a "prince" as:

noble in rank

generous in mind and character

a member of one's own people

I pray that God roots out the ugliness of my heart towards others who make my insides squirm. I want to be generous and willing to love God's creative handiwork.

God, I desire to remain tender to individuals who move your tender compassion. Please help me embrace the "unloveable" and "forgotten" who culture tosses onto the ash heap.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Most Trusted Man in America

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him."— Psalm 28:7

The Most Trusted Man

in America

Legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite died. Accolades poured from around the world through my TV screen for "the most trusted man in America." Mr. Cronkite helped guide viewers nationwide through the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the moon landing, the Watergate scandal, and other momentous news events.

At Cronkite's memorial service, the "60 Minutes" commentator, Andy Rooney said, "Walter was such a good friend."

Cronkite's former executive producer Sanford Socolow said, "He always lived by the wire service adage: 'Get it first, but get it right.' "

Mike Ashford, a longtime friend, said, "I was often asked, 'What he's really like?' And I would always answer, 'He's just the way you hope he is.' "

It makes me wonder why we admire mortal men so much and ignore immortal God. What would happen if our TV screens featured longtime friends of God singing his praises and telling us 24/7 what God is like. Too bad the media fails to "Get it first, but get it right" about my dear friend, the Lord my strength. My heart trusts in Him who guides me through tragedy, scandal and all momentous life events.

"And that's the way it is."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Exit Points

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward me; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count." Psalms 139:16-17; 40:5. (NASB)

Exit Points

How many times has parenting in the solo-parent fast lane made me want to kick back and take the nearest exit ramp? Probably way too many to count.

One guy wanted me to take his exit. My workload prevented me from even thinking about dating him. I did not have enough time for myself, much less my sons. At first, his invitations tempted me to step away from my grinding responsibilities.

But…he kept calling and insisting in a stalky kind of way, then arguing that I go out with him. (That in itself was a good reason not to spend time with him.) No amount of explaining appeased him.

Every phone call attempted to convince me that going out with him was a good thing for me: "You deserve a break. You need time to yourself. Blah, blah, blah."

I quit taking his calls.

His initial charming allure and offer for a fun break was no different from other tempting exit ramps in life. Exit points offer choices, pleading "Take me. Take me." As a single mom, my sense of priorities directed me to pour my energy, abilities and resources into what was most crucial to my sons' and our survival and my spiritual wellbeing.

I'm so glad that God's pursuit of relationship with me isn't pushy. When I veer off course or snub my heavenly Father's advances, God does not exit in a huff. He faithfully waits. His unconditional love persuades me to connect with him. And he's never too busy or stressed out to meet me where I am.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Balance Sheet Analysis Guide

"For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward. 'But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number." —Job 5:7–9 (NASB)


The Balance Sheet Analysis Guide

Looking back on all my years of single parenthood, I'm amazed.

I survived.

When I compare income with outflow, nothing adds up. Because "nothing" provided a good descriptor of my income after bills.

I lacked $37 to pay my utilities and requested help.

"Go get another job or two," my pastor advised.

The power company cut off my utilities.

No heat.

No hot food.

No refrigerator to keep food cold.

No warm water to bathe my preschool sons.

Even though I did not have good feelings about that pastor, I felt victorious. I bathed my sons under a swimming pool outdoor shower. I used melted ice cubes to brush teeth. We survived for days, until I received my next paycheck.

Many times, I felt trapped. I worked two or three jobs. Even so, I could not improve my circumstances. The only thing I could change was my inner spiritual state. I pled my causes before God. When man does not listen, care or help, God balances inequity. The Loaves and Fishes Phenomenon stretched my faith, multiplying every penny I earned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cinderella at Midnight

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."— Romans 8:1 (NASB)

Cinderella at Midnight

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that if I loved God, I'd live happily after ever.

After my divorce, I wish my midnight epiphany had produced a pumpkin. But that revelation plunged me into a painful reality that others no longer considered my God-given giftedness useful to honor God—at least in their ministries and organizations. Their attitudes towards my divorce, which was biblical as defined by them, communicated, "You're marriage failed; it's an embarrassment to us. You're persona non grata, no longer useful to God."

By contrast, I felt passionately that my plunge into devastation equipped me to better understand, comfort and warn others.

Other than Jesus, I do not recall the people that God used in the Bible as being polished and perfect. Talk about embarrassing, their lives were messy. I love the way the Bible reveals man—unvarnished.

  • Adam rejected God's wisdom.
  • Abraham lied.
  • Moses murdered a man.
  • David committed adultery.
  • Solomon's wives turned his heart away from God.
  • Peter denied God's son.
  • Thomas doubted Jesus.
  • Paul incited murderous riots towards those who believed in Christ.

Religionists measured me by their success-oriented expectations. Jesus values me far differently. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," (Matthew 5:3-4 NASB). The Greek word for poor, ptōchos, means "reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms, destitute of wealth, influence, position, and honor."

Hmmm. That definition accurately describes single parenthood to me.

No longer an honored part of "their" family and without influence, I felt closer to God, relying on him more than before.

God's ways are not our ways and for that, I'm glad. After we fall, God lifts us up, using our grace-blessed lives in a deeper way to comfort others.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Distinctly God’s

"The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts. I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise."—Proverbs 17:3; Psalm 31:12; Psalm 34:18; Jeremiah 17:14 (NASB)

Distinctly God's

When everything I valued was smashed and the remaining pieces torn away from me, I saw myself as I really am.

Vulnerable. Broken. Crushed.

Busted relationships, busted promises and busted expectations shattered my hope that I could be restored, better than before.

Golden Seams

In the 15th century, the Japanese did not throw away broken ceramic objects. They mended them with a technique known as kintsugi or golden joinery. A lacquer resin held the broken seams together. Then the skilled kintsugi artisan sprinkled a finely powdered gold on the sticky lacquer seams.

These golden seams on mended ancient broken pots are distinctly Japanese. Enhanced by the master artisan’s touch, the beauty of a broken pot, that normally would have been tossed, made it lovelier and more precious and valuable than before.

Hard times test my fragile heart, sensitizing it to others—also broken, crushed and flung away like throwaway debris. How can I thank God enough for picking up each piece and patching together my life and heart better than before?

I am not disposable to God.

I'm precious and valuable.

The restorative touch of my wounded healer, Jesus, highlights my brokenness, letting others know—

I'm distinctly God's.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Overcoming Misery

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"—James 2:1–5 (NASB)

Overcoming Misery

I'm the most miserable when I think about—

  • what I don't have
  • what I can't afford
  • what others have that I want
  • what others who don't respect me think about me.

These thoughts range from wanting a husband to wishing for a better paying job to desiring a spacious, beautiful home. Because if I had these things then the disrespecters might treat me as if I have value. I find their negative stereotypes of single-parent families especially irksome.

My anguish serves as a microscope to myself and a telescope to God. When I look close up at myself, I see self doubt. When I search for God, I'm liberated from my attachment to fine things and others' biases. I refocus on putting my ultimate trust in God alone. I prefer to observe myself through God's eyes.

Beloved.

Set free.

Rich in faith.

Heir of his kingdom.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rockin’ Rollin’ Single Parenting

"I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. In my distress, I called upon the Lord."—Psalms 18:1-3; 6

Rockin' Rollin' Single Parenting

The first earthquake after my divorce rocked and rolled our tiny HUD apartment. My leg encased in plaster prevented me from walking from the living room to my sons' bedroom.

I yelled, "Come to me," then began crawling towards their bedroom. Looking like drunken sailors, my terrified sons teetered and tottered out of their rooms and into my arms. For days, aftershocks cracked underneath us, startling my sons from a dead sleep, propelling them into my twin bed.

When unseen tectonic plates shifted underneath my marriage, God said, "Come to me." Without the benefit of court-ordered child support, my salary only covered the monthly bills every month and a half. With each new expense, emergency or even basic necessities like school clothes and supplies, my emotions rocked and rolled.

I began to dread the next financial tremor.

Often I prayed, "God, please, could I have just three months of peace without any traumatic surprises?" But month after month, shaky finances and circumstances continued to create emotional upheaval in me.

A few weeks after that massive earthquake, my three-year-old stood outside screaming. I ran down the stairs, picked him up, and held him close. Kyle shrieked, "Ert kwake. Ert kwake." Leaves on a tree trembled from the wind, throwing Kyle into a terror.

I reassured Kyle, "It's okay, Son. Mommy's here. There is no earthquake."

I realized that I was not much different from my traumatized son. Each time bad news shook my world, I trembled, feeling emotionally re-traumatized. God, my rock, my refuge and my deliverer, heard many frequent, adrenalized cries for help.

Today, life's almost boring ebbs and flows differ from those horrible rockin', rollin' days. Now I clearly see how God held me close, comforted me, and provided all our needs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trial by Fire Hose

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. God reaches down from on high and takes hold of me; he draws me out of deep waters." — Psalms 22:14; 18:16; 42:1

Trial by Fire Hose

Personally, I prefer sipping from a straw, but usually I drink from a fire hose. A massive flood of responsibility and stress streams nonstop towards me. I carry a daily load that many parents share with someone else. The velocity of pressure gushing towards me pins me against the wall with fire hose force. Since I cannot control the volume of stress, being backed up on life is an understatement. But, then again, drinking from a fire hose is not easy. I can only endure the blast so long before I realize I'm drowning. So how do I turn off the fire hydrant?

Step Away from the Hose: The flood of life makes me want to cry and scream. And sometimes I do, on my knees before God.

Manage the Fire Hose: I learned from hard experience to be ruthlessly selective. When I'm down and lack emotional strength to prop up drainers, I retreat from them and position people around me who know how to uplift my flagging strength and dreams.

Detect the Smoke: When my emotional cauldron bubbles over blinding me with the smoky haze of hopelessness, I turn to Psalms. The words of other fellow strugglers assures me that I'm not the only one who exchanges blows with emotional and spiritual adversity.

Extinguish Smoldering Images: Whatever I immerse myself in translates to reality. Often, pessimistic thoughts, events or people fire hose my emotional optimism. I fill my mind with God's living water, reminding me that God, not powerful emotions, circumstances or people, directs my life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Me, God?

"Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," Joshua 1:9 (NIV).

Why Me, God?

When my husband left for his new life, the thought of parenting alone terrified me. I barraged God with "Why" questions. Why was my husband unfaithful? Why did he blame me for his choices? Why did he refuse to reconcile? Why didn't God change him? Why was I left alone?

God could have given me reasons and answers to every "Why" question, but he didn't. Instead, he gave me himself.

God's Word assures me that God will never leave me, forsake me or be unfaithful. He sticks closer than super glue, putting the pieces of my life back together. Through every uncertain, chaotic passage of my life, fear erected barriers to moving forward. I didn't want my fears to grow stronger than my faith.

I've seen the past and God sees tomorrow. Today I will not be terrified or discouraged, I will trust the One who locks tight to me—everywhere I go.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sock Puppet Syndrome

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul." —Matthew 23:12; Psalm 3:3; Psalm 25:1 (NASB)

Sock Puppet Syndrome

Church was once a familiar, safe place. But, that changed when divorce altered my life. Since becoming a single parent, religious institutions, overall, have been mostly disappointing experiences for me. In Matthew 23, Jesus identifies the reasons I no longer feel welcome.

Jesus was not shy about megaphoning to large crowds and his disciples the false identities projected by high profile religious leaders. Today, "sock puppets" refer to people using false online identities for deceptive purposes. In Jesus' day, he called them hypocrites.

What do religious pretenders with power look like? They—

  • Tell you what to do, but they do not do what they say you should do.
  • Are unwilling to lift a finger to help lift your burden.
  • Want you to notice them, acting all religious and righteous in public.
  • Love their religious titles and their places of honor and best seats at public and religious functions. (Matthew 28)

Outwardly, their false masks look great, but they're dead men walking. They are as empty as a lifeless sock puppet. Jesus also described them as blind, fools, robbers, lawless, serpents, vipers, persecutors, killers, and self-indulgent.

Why?

They devoured widows, who were the single parents of Jesus' day. They claimed to know and speak for God, but they didn't. They built monuments, neglecting justice, mercy, faithfulness, and caring for others.

Over the years, I've depended upon my "Underground Church." They include others humbled by life's circumstances or they understand God's heart regarding single parents. They listen to me when I'm down, encourage me and remind me to lift my concerns to God, who is faithful, merciful and just.

Monday, July 13, 2009

God Deals Justly with Individuals

"But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, if a man does not oppress anyone, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully,-he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD.—Ezekiel 18:5,7–9

God Deals Justly with My Oppressors

Today, I recalled people who robbed me of my meager earnings: a realtor who cheated me when I bought my house, a well-known car dealer who sold me a car that didn't run and threatened to sue me if I didn't make the payments, a boss and co-worker who lied, impacting my income, only to name a few.

My mom says, "They don't fear God."

God repeatedly warns individuals not to oppress the widow or orphan. These individuals crossed God and obviously have no fear of the consequences of their actions.

I do not take pleasure in wishing those who oppressed me with harm and neither does God. My prayer and God's desire is that they will turn from their evil ways and turn to God. God reminds me, "Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them," (Deuteronomy 32:35 NASB).

Yikes!

Individuals can escape responsibility for a time. Ultimately, God judges each person for his or her conduct, holding people accountable for their choices.

I prefer to trust (fear, respect) God, he will take care of me, because "The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness," (Psalm 147:11 NASB).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stalked by Loneliness

"My eyes are continually toward the LORD, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses." —Psalm 25:15–17 (NASB)

Stalked by Loneliness

Loneliness stalked my heart last night.

I didn't appreciate the unwanted attention. That disconcerting feeling harasses my heart, intimidating my contentment. The solitary journey of parenting alone magnifies aloneness.

I wish I could shatter loneliness or at least get a restraining order to keep it far from my heart. God's promise comforts me, "I am a father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows. I'm in my holy habitation. And I make a home for the lonely," Psalm 68:5-6 (NASB).

In spite of all the rejection, hurt and isolation I've experienced, I still desire to connect. The thorn of being alone spurs me to pursue God, life and relationships.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Behind the Times

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." —Philippians 3:12–14 (NASB)

Behind the Times

I bought an old timey clock for a steal. Someone turned the key and wound the clock's spring too tight. It's frozen in time.

The cost to repair? Expensive.

I thought about taking it apart to see what makes it not tick, but I probably couldn't put it back together again. The woman who sold it to me said, "It's a chimer." But I've never heard it chime.

Sometimes my Bible reminds me of a clock that chimes every hour. I hear its words over and over, but tune them out, until…

I run down.

Most mornings, it's hard to get up. Before I rise, I'm already behind. I just want to curl into a fetal position and go back to sleep. When depression—the 3 A.M. blues of the soul—strikes, I long to turn back time's hands and undo the pain.

No breakup.

No divorce.

No parenting alone.

The paralyzing "If onlys" fail to stop or reverse time. I can't stay stuck in bed or the past. So, when the alarm clock clangs, I rise, whine and do what most clocks do, I just keep going.

My body and soul runs on two clocks. My physical clock ticks away the minutes and hours doing the daily motions of life. I'm so glad that when stresses and strains wind me too tight, breaking me down, God doesn't consider me too expensive to fix. His Word holds the key to repair my innermost parts.

The truth of God's Word winds up my spiritual clock, helping me to run, press on and pursue the passion God put in my heart.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Fearless Trust in God

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

A Fearless Trust in God

A friend's severely disabled child is unable to take care of himself. Taking him places is a handholding adventure. He slips his clawed hand into mine, fearlessly trusting me to walk beside him.

In many ways, he's fearless due to the naivety of his developmental disabilities. Mr. Curiosity strikes out courageously, as his determined wobbly walk heads towards items catching his eye.

And, in other ways, his grip tightens when the unsteadiness of his gait falters. His faith in me is simple and complete. My sweet friend helps me see simple joys and appreciate what I take for granted, even God.

My 'intelligence' often disables my trust in God. I long to depend on God the way my 'disabled' buddy fearlessly trusts me to protect, provide, lead, and care for him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finding Rest in the Midst of Exhaustion

"Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word."—Psalm 119:27–28

Finding Rest in the Midst of Exhaustion

"I'm so tired." The hands of the clock poke me in the back, prodding me to, "Get up! Get up! Get up!" The fear of being late to work surges adrenalin through my sleep deprived body. Exhausted and exasperated, I rouse my sons from their beds with the reverie, "Go! Go! Go!"

Accustomed to the roar of time's cannon and the whizzing shrapnel of my battle-fatigued voice, my brave, little soldiers march through the morning routine and out to the car.

Negative cash flow, emotional, physical and mental exhaustion tempt me to give up. How is it possible that my body withstands inhuman exhaustion? Solo parents persevere, capturing the vision of a champion—bent over, drenched with stress's perspiration, zombie-marching one foot at a time forward while no cheerleaders look on. The only yells I hear emanate from my children's mouths.

Does solo-parent fatigue weigh you down? Praise and worship music pumps up my dead weary walk. Listen to one of my favorite songs, "God Will Make a Way." The lyrics and calming melody encourage my spirit as I struggle to stay motivated on the treadmill of life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who Is My Role Model?

"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." — 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NASB)

Who Is My Role Model?

When propelled into single parenthood, my friends and associates were married. As a newly-singled mother, I needed the hope and assurance that my children would turn out okay. So I looked for insight from adult children from single-parent homes. I desperately wanted to know how to parent my sons. I wanted to pattern my parenting after others who successfully raised healthy, productive children. To circumvent avoidable missteps, I also carefully evaluated the lives of solo parents who failed.

I took to heart "What my mom did right and wrong" tips. These adult children talked about their moms' sacrifices, support and encouragement. What stood out to me was that they respected their moms' integrity, character and faith. Often, I thought their moms were saints or superwomen. I wish I could say that I lived and acted my best every day, but I didn't. Stress and exhaustion took its toll.

Character and commitment to my children and God helped me take one day at a time during my darkest, saddest hours. Even when I felt like giving up, the examples of other single parents gave me hope that my children and I'd make it too. When my footsteps faltered, I still desired to follow in God's footprints. And, when I felt depressed and discouraged I mustered up my courage to trust God.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leaving an Unforgettable Legacy

"Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day." —Billy Graham


Leaving an Unforgettable Legacy

I watched Michael Jackson's memorial service at the Staples Center. Who would have guessed that the King of Pop's memorial service would begin and end directing our attention to the King of Kings?

The pastor prayed the benediction, "Even now, the King of Pop must bow his knee to the King of Kings." Jackson's music, his monument, weaves throughout many people's lives. He inspired others to dream. Some people leave buildings, money, possessions as their legacy. We live in a culture that promotes illusions—fame and fortune—as the "stuff of life." When we die, these fantasies are

Lost.

A person's legacy is never about wealth or belongings. It's always about how we allow God to work in our lives and character. As the book of Matthew wisely recorded, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," (Matthew 6:2-21).

In life, I knew Michael Jackson as a single father, but not as a man of faith. The Scripture directs us to take care of our families. Solo parents sacrifice, lose sleep, work multiple jobs, and give their lives to provide for their children. As parents, we may fail our children, our living legacies. Divorce tarnished the family legacy I wanted to leave my children. I did not feel "called" to be a single mother, but that's where I found myself. I only hope others will say, "Here lived a single mom who did her job well, in spite of the challenges." However, I rest assured in the fact that God never fails his children and I trust him to draw my children close to his heart.

When I die, will my memorial focus on me, my accomplishments or on God? No matter my imperfections or struggles, hopefully, my children will celebrate me as a person of strong character and deep conviction whose faith in God triumphed over life's challenges and controversy.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."—Matthew 6:31–34 (NASB)

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

As a child, I recited the classic 18th century children's prayer—

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

Should I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Instead of inspiring trust in God, I worried, Will I die tonight?

My worry wart sprouted years ago. So why do I fear imaginary things that will never happen?

Facts reveal:

  • 40% percent of the things people worry about will never occur
  • 30% of the things people worry about are things that have already happened
  • 12% of all worries have to do with unnecessary imaginings about health
  • 10% of worries are about what other people think
  • 92% of my worries, I can't control. That leaves 8% for legitimate concerns to solve.

What Did I Worry about

This Time Last Year?

I have no clue. Whatever it was, it worked itself out. Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday. If I keep this up, how many years will I lose to worrying. Jesus said,"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" How do I deal with worry?

  • Laugh. I turn my worry into humor. Sir Winston Churchill said, "When I look back on all the worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened."
  • Exercise My Mind and Body. If you fall exhausted into bed at night, you'll be too tired to stay awake and worry.
  • Redirect My Focus on Today's Joys. Worrying saps my strength, making me more dissatisfied about life. I love Mark Twain's advice, "Drag your thoughts away from your troubles...by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it."
  • Can't Sleep? Get Up! Do something, anything. When sleep eludes me, I read a book or the Bible. That puts many people to sleep.
  • Eat Chocolate and Smile.
  • Walk in the Sun. Enjoy spring flowers, autumn leaves, winter snow, and the summer butterflies.
  • Resign as the Controller of My Universe. Trust God.
  • Take One Day at a Time. Looking back over my years as a single mother, I survived every burden, one day at a time.
  • Don't Be Afraid of Tomorrow. God is already there. Turn your worries over to God. He'll be up all night anyway. Snuggle up to faith. It makes a comfortable pillow.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Daily Race

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay." —Habakkuk 2:3

The Daily Race

My racing heart awakes me from a deep sleep.

A car crosses the center median, aimed towards my car. My body tenses up, waiting for the car to slam into mine, sending us both into the deep ravine paralleling the road. Miraculously, I'm not hit and keep speeding down the highway.

Adrenalin surges.

The near miss terrifies me. My hands grip the steering wheel, shaking from sheer fright. How did that car miss me? I stomp on the brake. Will I be able to pull over before my adrenalized terror crashes my car?

But it was all a dream.

Yet, it reminds me of the near hit and misses of everyday life. Albert Einstein observed, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Obviously, he was not a single parent, because everything accelerates towards me at once, crowding the parenting lane.

What's the Difference

Between a Dream and a Vision?

I process my emotions through dreams. I've resolved issues from the past, solved today's problems and deciphered plans for the future. Dreams occur lying down with eyes closed.

My opened-eyed vision of the future allows me to look down different roads to see what could happen for sons and myself.

Solo parents function as visionaries in our children's lives, requiring a forward motion. We can parent either from the source of power and moral guidance or from fear.

Consciously and unconsciously, I react to challenges that alarm my heart. One of my favorite promises of God for my children and I calms my anxiety, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,'" (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB).

When trapped in the fast lane, surrounded by chaos, I ponder Job's challenge, "Will I take delight in the Almighty? Will I call on God at all times?" (Job 27:10 NASB).

Yes! I choose to believe God's higher vision calling me to take heroic action.

And the daring actions God requires of me?

  • Call on me. (Jeremiah 29:12)
  • Come and pray to Me. (Jeremiah 29:12)
  • Seek me. (Jeremiah 29:13)
  • Search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

If I "Trust in Him at all times, Pour out my heart before Him; God is my refuge," (Psalm 62:8 NASB). I don't know about you, but the demands of life feel so out of control that I need a safe place to find comfort, rest and hope.

God's Response to My Wild Ride Screams?

He will listen to me. (Jeremiah 29:12)

I will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

He will restore my future and my fortunes. (Jeremiah 11; 14)

Not a bad exchange on life's roadway if you ask me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration of Independence

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. — Psalm 34:14 (NASB)

Declaration of Independence

My husband's declaration of independence from our marriage set off fireworks, rivaling any Fourth of July spectacular. His freedom involving deceit, betrayal and abandonment ignited a series of emotions for friends, family, my sons, and me.

From that first sexual spark to the final fizzle, the ensuing conflict and divorce left me emotionally burned out and vulnerable. Colorful verbal pyrotechnics torched my heart with searing pain. For years, I struggled to overcome fireworks-related injuries.

Even though I desired emotional reconciliation with my X, verbal fireworks continued to fly, spin, zoom, and pop, making the peace with him that so I desired seem impossible.

My Declaration of Independence

A professional counselor pointed out a pattern in our conversations, "When your X lobs a verbal firecracker your way, it ignites your desire to connect and communicate your heart. Once hooked, he then baits you so you will blow up, relieving his guilt."

After every one of these pop, pop, pop displays, I suffered emotionally. He felt relieved. If I wanted peace, I'd have to practice fireworks safety.

How to Avoid Verbal Fireworks Injuries

The various Hebrew and Greek definitions of "peace" helped me understand how to avoid verbal fireworks injuries.

  1. "The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace," Exodus 14:14. (KJV). When words hooked my heart, I held my peace. In the Hebrew language, peace means, "to be silent, be dumb, be speechless, be deaf." Speechless hardly described my usual response. After a year of biting my tongue, I realized my independence. I grew deaf to any need to respond, frustrating him beyond measure.
  2. "Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it." Psalm 34:14 (NASB). I sought emotional peace during and after our conversations. I ran from words meant to upset me, setting me off.
  3. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 (NASB). I wanted peace in my life. I chose to trust God with my lot in life, even if it included a contentious X. My relationship with God became more important than maintaining an unhealthy relationship with a man. That freedom guarded my heart.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Sounds of Thunder

"You called in trouble and I [God] rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder." —Psalm 81:7 (NASB)

The Sounds of Thunder

The sounds of thunder roar, breaking the sound barrier outside my window. A storm brews.

My ears hear another thunder—my sons' feet. Just as I cannot escape the sound of thunder, my Sons of Thunder shoes thump through every room of our home. Their laughing, teasing, fighting, and demands for attention range from long, low rumbles to loud cracks, commanding my response.

Single parenting is not for the pale hearted. My tears drip between short periods of calm. Lightning strikes often under the dark cloud of constant stress—car repairs, no money, medical emergencies, no money, the monthly budget, not enough money.

Most days, I long for silence—peace—from distress.

When Enlightenment Strikes

I rumble, grumble and stumble through life's storms. Thunder, a striking reminder of God's power, reminds me of the nearness of the God of heaven. Psalm 81 reminds me to—

  • Sing for joy to God—my strength
  • Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob, Scoti, Kristoffer, and Kyle
  • Remember how in the past God rescued me or strengthened me to face each new challenge
  • Listen to and hear God's words
  • Trust the maker of my sons, myself, the wind, and the rain, and his wisdom to equip me to parent my sons.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

"But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer." — Genesis 39:21 NASB

The Kindness of Strangers

I did something unthinkable—human. I bought tickets to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see Celtic Woman for my precious disabled friend and myself.

The problem?

I thought July 1 was today—not yesterday, the day the tickets were issued for.

What to Do?

Resignation or Take Initiative

Show up at the box office and plead my case?

Instead of driving 80 miles with the possibility rejection, I called the ticket-issuing agency. I explained my dilemma and that I understood the ticket contract, no exchanges or refunds.

The person who answered my call also confirmed, "No exchanges or refunds." And she said, "You are at the mercy of the box office. Why don't you call them?"

I thought, It never hurts to ask. If I'm told no, at least I tried. If the answer is yes, that's wonderful.

Then the phone representative warned me, "Don't talk to the first person who answers or even tell them the situation. Ask for the supervisor." And then she gave me the Red Rocks phone number.

I dialed Red Rocks' number and followed her directions.

The problem?

No supervisor was in the office. However, if I'd trust that "first person" and tell her the situation she'd email her supervisor.

Within minutes, she returned my call, "Go to "Will Call" and we will exchange your tickets."

Often I feel trapped by my circumstances, as if jailed by the invisible bars of "No hope. No exchanges or refunds for you. You're stuck with a worthless ticket." How often do I fail to go to "Will Call" and ask God to turn my situation around? Far too many than I'd like to admit.

Why does it feel strange to ask God to provide solutions to our problems? His tender heart extends kindness far greater than the kindness of strangers.