Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rekindle the Spirit of Christmas

“Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:28, 37.

Pain pillaged my first Christmases with my sons without their father. Haunted by the spirit of Christmases past, I mourned the loss of our family’s meaningful rituals making Christmas wondrous. I grieved that my two young sons would not experience the same emotional sensations my mom and dad lavished on me—stability, joy, faith and warm, love-filled holidays.

Celebrating the birth of baby Jesus provided the meaning of the season. However, in years past, emotional pleasure—excitement, anticipation and delight—energized my spirit of Christmas. Now something unfamiliar crowded out my holiday zeal—excruciating heartache. Financial turmoil extinguished any remaining fragments of seasonal cheer. I felt as helpless as that babe in a manger in a cold cave thrust into an inhospitable world.

What most influences your spirit of Christmas? Alcohol? Spending time with those you love? Enduring uneasy truces to avoid family issues and quarrels? Gift giving? The birth of Christ?

The First Christmas
On “the” first Christmas, Mary and Joseph experienced many circumstances single parents face. They confronted shame and a difficult moral situation—a pregnant bride-to-be. Wagging tongues surely gossiped about their state of affairs. Their social prestige factor? Near zero. The innkeeper rejected Mary and Joseph, forcing them to find shelter wherever they could. A child born into poverty.

What lone parent has not experienced Mary’s feelings? Astonished, perplexed, afraid, anxious, and incredulous.

The God of Disguise and Surprise
The God of disguise and surprise came to reside right where solo parents live. As the emptiness of the first of many lonely Christmases engulfed me in depression, words my mom read to me as a child every Christmas morning encouraged me, “Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The real God, the warm God engaged my cold heart right where I was—needy, helpless, weak, angry and unforgiving. Emmanuel—God with us—came unScroogelike to my young sons and me, extending tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future.

A Christmas Prayer
Like my Christmas wish list, I often wasted my prayers asking for inconsequential desires. When lost, abandoned and impoverished in spirit, I embraced the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Wrapped in God’s Amazing Gifts
Emmanuel—God with us—wraps us in his amazing gifts of new life, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, love and concern for others. Jesus, the first Christmas gift, summed up the true spirit of Christmas, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Live this season by the spirit of love and keep the spirit of Christmas glowing all year long.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moving Forward, When You’d Rather Go in Reverse

“I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)
I came to single parenting as an accomplished adult and professional. Rejection and abandonment slashed my personhood and confidence to negative digits. The daunting challenge that lay before me reduced me to feeling like a child—in need of guidance and support. Where would I obtain the knowledge to successfully navigate life and guide my children?

Just as everyone begins life as an infant, I lacked solo parenting experience during those first days on my own. From dealing with car troubles to finding a job and childcare to emotionally surviving the day without a major bawl fest, every day offered new challenges to overcome.

Like children who grow from helpless infants to mature adults, I learned how to survive, cope and grow—one step at a time. Every triumph over an obstacle boosted my confidence. There were times when I took two steps forward, then fell to my knees and crawled until I could regain my footing once again. Too often I was too hard on myself. I only looked at what I didn’t accomplish that day or where I failed. I lost sight of the skills I'd developed and how I’d grown more adept at overcoming frustrations.

A New Look At the Past
When discouraged I looked back, not upon my sorrows and disappointments, but upon the headway I’d gained. I stopped comparing my life to what I'd lost and started asking God give me the courage to face each day and hope for the future. Each time a new crisis reverses my forward momentum, I ask, “Am I better than a week ago, a month ago, a year ago?

Growing up is never easy. We hold on to the way things were, while fearing, “What’s to come?” Let go of the past. Live the best life you can today. Look ahead to what can be and trust God. Never forget—stress and trials mature us emotionally and spiritually.

How much progress have you already made from the first day you found yourself a single parent? Each day’s unperceived progress pays it forward towards our future. Faith, wisdom, and maturity start today. Ask God for wisdom to help you move forward—today. Right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What's in a Name?

This is what the Lord says: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I created you,  formed you. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Jeremiah 31:3, Nahum 1:7, Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)

I’m not sure how long it took me to grow comfortable with the term “single parent”. It didn’t fit. It felt like someone else’s clothes. Certainly, not mine.
When stripped of the honor and title of “wife” and every other moniker associated with marriage and acceptance by polite society, I clung to the only descriptor left—single mom. That name made me at least feel somewhat human. “Single” and “mom” described my circumstances, my status, and my daunting responsibilities.
Even though who I was had not changed—how I was viewed and treated by others changed. Without knowing me, religious leaders
  • judged me harshly
  • called what was left of my shattered family uncomplimentary names
  • predicted I’d fail at parenting
  • pronounced curses upon any hope for my children to achieve any success in their futures
  • and accused a terrified single mother and two innocent children of the downfall of society.
Their dire warnings, prejudices, and forecasts further stripped me of dignity and courage. Where’s the voice of encouragement when you need it most?
The only person who didn’t treat or view me harshly?
El ‘Echad, The One God. God’s care, affirmations, and support never wavered.
I was still his friend, his child, and his beloved. The father of every man, woman and child on the face of the earth cheered me on.
Nothing and no one could separate me from his love.

El Echad, I praise you for embracing my precious family. You didn’t slap a negative label on my precious sons or me. When terrified by those who branded my family with treacherous words, I turned to your Word that convinced me that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate me from your love.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An Encounter with Truth

“For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 (NASB) 

“You’re in great financial shape.” 

I never thought I’d ever hear these words. But that’s what my financial planner said after looking at my budget, lack of debt and compensation in my new job. I’m in far better shape than most. Facing uphill challenges and a shaky budget as a single mom taught me practical and spiritual lessons.

In a financial crisis, don’t trust in man or credit cards.

Trust God.

After years of uncertainty, mistreatment, financial struggle, betrayal, and even individuals taking advantage of my vulnerability, El Emunah, The Faithful God, remained true to his character, his commandments and his compassion.

And all I want to do is praise El Emunah. He’s my rock. “Let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of my salvation,” Psalm 95:1-3 (NASB).

El Emunah, you are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my salvation, my strength, and my redeemer. I can count on your faithfulness. Thank you for being my refuge during my days of trouble. When my heart was faint and I called on you, you heard me and rescued me quickly. I’m amazed that I can continually come to you. Thank you for your abundance.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Beginning and the End of Unemployment

“Behold, I am making all things new,” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” Revelation 21:5-7 (NASB)

“Please don’t make me wait until my last penny is gone,” I begged God last week. A quick peek at my bank statement elicited my desperate plea. Although several agencies want my services, their bureaucratic processes moving forward to employment seem far too slow for my patience level. Would their employment date and first paycheck come after bills exhaust my bank account? Would my house head into foreclosure?

All I want is emotional and financial relief and all El ‘Aman, The Faithful God, wants is for me to trust him.

Each time a person offered a potential job possibility my encouragement soared. When man failed to come through, my hopes glided on a downward trajectory. Only God knows the alpha (beginning) and omega (end) of this time off without pay.

Behold, I Am Making All Things New
This financial downturn proved far different. As an independent contractor, I’m ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. I confess that in the past unemployment sent me into severe terror mode.

And now—no benefits? Just trust in God—not the government?

I desired a new attitude to overcome depression and fear. What would it cost me to drink from the refreshing, free flowing waters of life with God?

With no job or income, I decided to respond to my “time in-between jobs” in a way far different from my past reactions. I did not want to acquiesce to stress. With cash flowing out and no consistent income flowing in, I wanted to lean into God’s faithfulness to bust my fears.

A backwards look forward—hindsight revealing that God had always provided—made me realize God’s provision will sustain me during this financial famine.  

To blot out panic, I started a daily blessings journal to record how God provides for me each day. God littered my journal with his faithfulness. From a dime found while cleaning out my garage to a friend giving me twenty dollars to go out to eat with my singles group, I praised God for the dependability of his blessings.

Two days after begging Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord my Provider, “Please don’t make me wait until my last penny is gone,” I received:
  • a tiny paycheck for a job performed
  • another check from someone I helped
  • a long-awaited refund from my credit card
  • an unexpected check that arrived in my mailbox
  • an email announcing a promising job possibility.
In one day, God reminded me of his amazing trustworthiness.

El ‘Aman, The Faithful God, you provide for me and keep your promises to those who love you. I’m amazed by your mercy to me. I love you and want to follow the wisdom of your commandments. As I look back on all these months of unemployment, thank you for covering my pared-down, budgeted expenses.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Caught in a Sudden Spring Snow Storm

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:9-11 (NASB)

I left my home at 5 PM and forgot my winter coat to speak at a women’s function. I thought, “Oh well, I’ll be home in a couple of hours, I’ll survive.”

At 8:30 PM I stepped into six inches of snow in my toeless and backless shoes. Wet snow pouring from the skies soaked my hair as I brushed snow and scraped ice off all four sides of my car—coatless. I grabbed a crocheted afghan that I keep in my car, wrapped it snuggly around me, snapped on my seatbelt, and started my car. When it’s cold my car refuses to start, due to a sluggish alternator not in my budget at the moment. My engine turned over and I thanked God.

As I inched forward on the slippery roads, praise and worship music blasted from my radio. All around me semi-trucks, cars, SUV’s, and police cars with lights flashing sat sideways and backwards in ditches. The heavy snowfall blowing across the road blinded my vision. The whiteout obscured the street sign. I turned left at the road I thought led home. Cars bogged down on the steep hill sat askew, blocking my snowy trek home. I felt trapped as my gas gauge sat dangerously close to empty.

“God, please help me get home,” I prayed.

I spotted a small opening between the cars littering the incline. Inching my way through the maze of stalled and stuck cars, I broke free. A few SUV’s whizzed past me at dangerous speeds endangering everyone in their icy path. I thought, “Idiots!” and continued my glacial, ten-mile-per-hour, crawl on all four wheels. In the blinding, thick storm, none of the landmarks looked familiar. 

I started to panic, “Where am I God? I don’t know where I am. I don’t recognize anything. Where does this road lead? Please let me come to a street I recognize.”

My shoulders and chest tightened up and then relaxed when a familiar, large building came into view. I was on the right road home. What a relief.

The steep hill delineating the street leading to my home immobilizes cars struggling to scale its upward trajectory. To avoid it, I ducked into a parking lot at the bottom of the hill and then exited onto the street above the precipitous slope. As I pulled safely into my driveway, I thanked God for safe passage home, and then waded in ankle-deep snow to the warmth of my home.

And that pretty much describes my life journey at the moment. As my faith inches along not sure where my life is headed, my emotions slip and slide, sometimes ditching hopes that daily life will return to mostly sunny and mild. So I look to the God of the heavens to lead me out of this blinding whiteout.

The spiritual snows blanketing my financial winter water my faith and trust in God to provide. I wrap my heart and mind in the warmheartedness of God’s promises. Sprouting from my trepidation is an excitement that God wants to accomplish what he desires for my life, my faith, my trust in him. Right now, I’m stranded by God’s love and I await God to pull me out of my circumstances.

El Jeshurun, there is none like you who, like the snow, rides the heavens and the skies to help me. Your word will not return to me empty. As the snow waters the harvest you bring, I look to you to supply my needs. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Life Hurtles Towards Your Eyeballs in 3D

"Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin. Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Exodus 20:19-21, Joshua 1:9 NASB)

As the reality of life and my dwindling resources hurtle towards me, 3D glasses enhance the illusion of my depth perception.

Two lenses—mine and God’s—filter everything I see and feel.

The goofy 3D glasses of unemployment perch on my nose, trying to filter two polarizing viewpoints streaming towards my heart.

One eye fixates on my circumstances.

The other homes in on God.

The focal point of one lens? Uncertainty, anxiety and fear.

The other zeros in on who God says he is in my circumstances—Jehovah-Shalom, God is my peace.

I desire for this Job moment to pass quickly and my job moment to come to pass, even faster. Everything feels urgent. And here I am stuck in wait mode. The phone fails to ring, ring, draining my patience. When the phone rings, I jump. I hope to hear, “You’re hired,” releasing the lump in my throat, the constriction of my chest and anxiety radiating from my shoulders.

I need the filter of the light of God’s Word to block the fear streaming into my heart. How long will it take for the depth of my perception to rest in the assurance that God sees what I need and when I need it?

I desire a fearless trust in God.

Each time an emotional downer blurs my hopes for relief, I zoom in on God’s promises. I plead for God’s perspective to move my fears to my peripheral vision—outside the center of my gaze. 

My refuge in this blinding point in time? His Word. God's point of view pinpoints my line of sight on the confidence that Jehovah Palet, my Deliverer, is working behind the scenes to resolve my circumstances.

Jehovah-shalom focus my heart on your peace. Drown out my fears. Flood my home, my mind, my soul, and my heart with your peace. Set my mind on you, your words, your promises. Let your peace inhabit every cell of my being.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Happens When a Life Storm Deletes Your To-Do List?

“Then I cried to the LORD in my trouble, and He brought me out of my distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then I was glad because they were quiet, so He guided me to my desired haven.”— Psalm 107:28-30 (NASB)
I don’t do limbo well. Especially unemployment. A few weeks ago my daily To-Do list was organized and full. Then a storm swirled through my life, shelving my To-Do list and obliterating my paycheck.

Each time I find myself unemployed, I panic.

I feel so alone.

This time I decided, “I want to respond differently. I called my church and met with a financial planner, which was somewhat hilarious. What single parent’s bank account really has enough resources to plan ahead?

Each time “What if…” fears creep over the barren landscape of my life and checkbook, I rehearse truth, “God is my provider.” In the desert God provided water, meat, manna, and himself for the Israelites—and they wanted not.

Each time stress and impatience influences me to raise the anxious Golden Calf question, “Where are you? I wish you’d show up sooner than at the LAST minute.”

Then I rehearse truth, “He’s always provided in the past—in his time. I have everything I need for today.”

I started a daily blessing journal to list how God provides every day. On those days circumstances assault my faith, I review my blessings list.

And today I’m struggling.

It amazes me how quickly a panic attack erases all memories of God’s provision. I agreed to do an assignment that would pay the house payment. The person I relied upon failed to come through, propelling me into begging mode, “God, please, please, please help me.”

So I here I sit rehearsing truth, “People are not the source of my salvation, God is. He will provide.” God offers the most security we can find in this world. I just wish I could feel it.

What’s on my To-Do list today?


Dear Jehovah-Jireh, you are my provider. I want my trust in you to be so strong, that stress cannot affect me. As I take a fresh look at my daily blessing list since beginning this journey of faith, thank you for your marvelous provision. Now I’m watching expectantly for you—the source of my salvation. My God will hear me.