Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Confessions of a Nervous Nelly

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds."—Philippians 4:6–7 (NASB)

Confessions of a Nervous Nelly

If I possessed a magic lamp, what would I wish for?

More money? A reliable car? A good night's sleep? A good relationship with the X? A college fund to educate my sons?

Most single parents go to sleep in a state of worry and wake every morning feeling anxious. That knot of tension in my stomach never, ever really dissolves. I worry about getting to work on time, my car breaking down, enough money to pay bills, not to mention my concerns about my sons. Someone suggested that I do not trust God enough.

Perhaps that is so.

Every time I face a new challenge, like Nervous Nelly, I react like a skittish horse. My emotions—

spook easily

sense fright and flight

take off in the wrong direction

jump sideways rather than confronting my fears.

Winning the Battle Over Worry

So how do I overcome worry? I have not reined in anxiety entirely. Nevertheless, when my emotions race out of control, here are some tips I practice to defuse panic.

  1. Tell God. I tell him my troubles. I confess, "I'm scared. I'm so worried about…" and then I go into my litany of woes.
  2. Ask for Help. I get specific. I ask God for money, for resources, for time, for help.
  3. Express Thanks. I express gratitude to God for who He is: my husband, provider, healer, protector. And I say "Thank you. I know you feed the birds and dress the flowers in designer one-of-a-kind duds."
  4. Verbalize My Blessings. Okay, my sons and I have never gone hungry. We have a roof over our heads and clothes to wear. I recognize that God has not let me down. His track record? Reliable. He always provides for our needs, even though I'm impatient and tend to second-guess his timing.
  5. Focus on God's Promises. "You are my child and I hear your cries. Don't be afraid. Trust me. I am with you. Do not anxiously look about. Focus on my ability to provide. I will support and assist you with my power and strength" (Isaiah 41:10).
  6. Guard My Heart. I make efforts to rise above my worries and guard my thoughts and feelings from diving head first into the downward worry spiral.

The Magic Lamp

If I were offered a magic lamp in exchange for God, would I take it?

It would be tempting. Every day people choose to trust themselves more than God.

Could I trust myself with the magic lamp to wish away my troubles and attain my desires and wants?

Probably not.

In my desperation, I'd choose wealth, comfort, and security, numbing me to the needs of others, instead of risking the adventure to trust God to provide.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seven Quintillion Five Quadrillion Reasons to Never Give Up

"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." —Psalm 139:17-18 (NASB)

Seven Quintillion Five Quadrillion

Reasons to Never Give Up

When Kate Gosselin said, "I don't really want to be alone. I don't want to do this alone, but it's required and I've got to do it," I cried. I recalled being overwhelmed by those initial feelings of abandonment, aloneness and terror.

The first few months in my new apartment with my young sons, I fell asleep clinging to my Bible as if it were a Teddy Bear. Our move from our home to an apartment in another town increased my isolation. Everything familiar—our home, social network, and friends—disappeared. Friends no longer called or invited us to their homes. I vanished off the face of the universe and their social calendars.

Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

Everyone's lives moved forward without skipping a beat. Yet, the rhythm and familiar tune of my life turned to silence. How would I raise two sons alone?

Like a piece of irritating grit in my shoe, I could not shake the feeling that no one cared about us anymore. Yet geography, circumstances and loneliness did not disconnect God's care and concern for my sons and I.

My thoughts raced over and over rehearsing my fears, responsibilities and the impossibilities of finances and parenting alone. Life's quicksand sucked my energy and courage into a dark black hole. Bogged down by depression, treading water in quicksand only made me sink faster.

Looking back on those frightening days, I realize when life's quicksand mired my emotions, finances, time, and energy, God gently lifted me up and carried me forward. He reminded me, "My precious child, I love you. I will never leave you or forsake you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, be assured that you are not alone. I am carrying you."

Some hypothesize that there are 7,500,000,000,000,000,000, or seven quintillion five quadrillion grains of sand in the world. God's precious thoughts about me and desire that my sons and I succeed outnumber every grain.

I am never out of God's sight or mind. He never gave up on me and I cannot give up on him.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In His Time

"He makes every thing beautiful in his time."—Ecclesiastes 3:11

God's Timing


When you look at the line above what catches your eye? The line or the dot? My eye sees the dot, that specific point between two lines.

And that's how I see my life and time.

My eyes, heart and emotion focus on the raging hot spot of time capturing my attention. God sees my life and time differently than I do. He looks at my entire lifeline—what he wants to heal from my past, ways he can help me today, how he will restore my future, and where I will reside after this life.

Today, a mere a dot on God's timeline, consumes me. God's time is not my time. Mine usually involves the word—NOW! When this week's plans crumble or I feel forgotten or misunderstood by others or today seems out of control, my patience takes a hike along the Stop-It-NOW Trail. God knowingly smiles on my problems and says, "Trust me. Wait for My time; it will be the right time."

Today's fires—stress and suffering—moves me closer to God or I can choose to move away from him.

El Roi, the God who sees, knows the pain of my yesterdays, my struggles today and my aspirations for my tomorrows. It's in those times when circumstances don't conform to my desires or wishes that I must cling to God's eternal promise: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

Restoring My Patience

When I can't get a grip on patience or perspective or extinguish the inferno threatening today, I sing or listen to the song, "In His Time."

In His time, in His time,

He makes all things beautiful in His time.

Lord, my life to You I bring,

May each song I have to sing,

Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.

In Your time, in Your time,

You make all things beautiful in Your time.

Lord, my life to You I bring,

May each song I have to sing,

Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shower Power

"I can't think of any sorrow in the world that a hot bath wouldn't help, just a little bit." —Susan Glasee

Shower Power

The white noise of the hot water beats down on me, drowning out the stress of single parenting. The shower seems the only place that my sons, bill collectors, and the demands of all my responsibilities remain locked outside the bathroom door.

It's just me. No distractions.

Before my mind and day launches into turbo charge, the piping hot water pelts my neck, putting my mind in warm-up mode for the day. As I squeeze the tube of body wash, creative solutions to problems ooze out from between my ears. My thought processes flow. I plan my "To-Do" list, solve problems or experience "ah ha!" moments. Occasionally, negative emotions wash over me and the streaming water hides my sobs and tears from my sons.

My auto-pilot shower routine—wash hair, soap up, shave, scrub, rinse—allows my mind and body to relax from my otherwise rigorous, uptight schedule. My shower time is the only time in my day that I experience peace and quiet. When I switch off the shower, daily stress again bombards my non-shower thinking.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Who hasn't experienced an epiphany under pulsing hot water? The power of the shower provides the perfect environment for a spiritual pause.

Take the instructions on a shampoo bottle—lather, rinse, repeat. How many times in my life have I washed my hair? When my hair does not feel clean after the first lather, rinse, repeat, I re-lather, re-rinse, repeat until it feels silky.

The instructions on the shampoo bottle reveal the solo-parenting spirit. The single parent perseveres, working their way through the dirty challenges of life, lathering, rinsing and repeating until they overcome the problems at hand.

The Quiet Waters of the Shower

The shower often provides a spiritual getaway, freeing my mind to think about how God pours out his comfort. When I—

  • suffer from the exile and loneliness of single parenting, I cry out to God who understands my plight, "Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life," (Psalm 69:1).
  • pass through the solo-parenting waters threatening to engulf me, "God is there with me," (Isaiah 43:2).
  • feel overcome by exhaustion, God "leads me beside quiet waters," (Psalm 23:2).
  • worry about my future, God reminds me that "like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, I will yield fruit in my season. My life and leaf does not wither; and in whatever I do, I will prosper," (Psalm 1:3).
  • resent the unfairness of life that robs my joy, I call out to my rescuer, “Joyfully I pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation. And as I do it, I'll say, "Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything!” (Isaiah 12:3–3).
  • fret that my dried up resources can't provide opportunities to ensure my children's futures, I trust God to "pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants," (Isaiah 44:3).
  • cry tears of grief, I know that someday, "God will wipe every tear from my eyes," (Revelations 7:17).

Never underestimate the power of the shower or God’s ability soak your parched heart with his strength and love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Will I Believe? God or Imperfect People

"The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?—Psalm 118:6

Who Will I Believe? God or People

A legion of parenting experts, sociologists, and religious folk eagerly point out the gruesome and lasting effects of children raised in a single-parent home. Their "words of wisdom" strike fear in my heart, undermining my conviction that I can lead my children with dignity, strength, and confidence. The very people castigating us renege on their God-given responsibilities. James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

One day I realized, Their dire warnings contradict God's heart regarding the widows and the orphans.

Beginning with the Torah, God commands his children to provide for all his children—including the impoverished and defenseless. In the Hebrew language, Exodus 22:21–22 repeats three words, "oppress," "cry out," and "listen." God instructs the people of God, "Do not mistreat, oppress or take advantage of the alien, widow or orphan." When their attitudes and actions fail to fear (respect) the Lord, God says he will defend the cause of the fatherless, widow and orphan (Deuteronomy 10:18).

Are Today's Single Mothers "Widows?"

In biblical times, widows were women who lost both their husbands and other males charged to socially and economically support them. Some men were unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations to these widows. "Widow" and "widowhood" derive from the root Hebrew word, alman, meaning "discarded, divorced, forsaken."

Discarded, divorced, forsaken describes how I felt when my husband pursued another man's wife, leaving me with the responsibility to care for two young, rambunctious sons. Solo parents know better than anyone the challenges we face. We do a good job of burying ourselves under the fear and guilt pile. We don't need others dumping more shame and panic upon us to promote their cultural agendas.

God's Agenda—Our Hope

Whether a solo parent by choice, chance, or circumstances, God reaches out to us to remove our fear and guilt, replacing it with His strength and hope. God constantly works on behalf of single parents and their children. When many pundits rail against us, I take comfort in, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reality Du Jour

"There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." — Ecclesiastes 3:4 NASB

Reality Du Jour

Some days I hate my life, my job and my circumstances. I get tired of nagging my children to eat their veggies, stop whining, do their homework, stop whining, brush their teeth, stop whining, clean their room, stop whining, go to bed, and stop whining! Too often, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Parenting alone produces waaaaay too much mama trauma drama.

And I whine—often.

Stormy emotions often roll over my day, shipwrecking my attitudes on fear's reef. On my whiniest days, rough seas drown out my hope and faith and I need a lifeline. My cry is the same as Jesus' disciples terrified by The Perfect Storm waves assaulting and burying their dinghy underwater. As their boat tossed about like a toy caught in the swirl of a tsunami, they yelled, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!"

Is Anybody There?

Jesus awoke from his nap drenched to the bone by the rockin' and rollin' waves enveloping the fishing boat. He asked, "Why are you afraid?" Then he stood up and scolded the winds and the sea. The Sea of Galilee obeyed and smoothed out like glass, becoming perfectly calm.

On my toughest days, it's easier for me to whine than admit, "Lord, I'm afraid to trust you."

What type of man do the winds and the sea obey? The kind of person who uses his power to throw a lifeline to a solo parent drowning under the weight of panic and her responsibilities.

God has been faithful to me. He saw the first recorded single mom's circumstances (Genesis 21:17). The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard…" Through every frightening turn of events, Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). He understands every one of my whiny cries. I will cling to God's life buoy and believe Hebrews 6:19, "I have this hope [in God] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

I'm thankful that God provided for me in the past. He's faithful to me today and will make available what I need for tomorrow, next week, next year.

Real Love: Pricey or Priceless?

"We know how dearly God loves us. And we feel this warm love everywhere." —Romans 5:5 TLB

Real Love: Pricey or Priceless?

Feeling guilty that you cannot afford to give your children more "stuff"?

Things are disposable; love, character and compassion aren't.

Richard M. DeVos reminds us that, "Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A word of optimism and hope. And you can do it when things are tough."

It doesn't cost a penny to give your child these gifts of love, reflecting God's love for us.

  1. Hug your child when discouraged. A hug improves overall mood and create feelings of acceptance and compassion. For teen guys, a pat on the shoulder will do.
  2. Notice when your child improves or does something right or well. Focus less on perfection and more on their baby steps of accomplishment.
  3. Affirm your child when he shows compassion towards the disabled or less fortunate.
  4. Encourage your son or daughter with words that affirm their value.
  5. Listen deeply to your child with a "tell me more" attitude.
  6. Repeat—often—the ways God provides for your family.
  7. Remind your child of his God-given strengths.
  8. Pray with your child about their concerns.