Monday, August 3, 2009

A Time to Laugh—Mexican Lion

"I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion's roar."—Winston Churchill

Mexican Lion

A dear friend calls me a "lioness." I often feel like a powerless mouse, but sometimes single parenting makes me roar. It takes the heart and strength of a lioness to overcome the fears of parenting alone.

One lion-hearted individual tired of people breaking into his shop. So he came up with this intimidating security system.

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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Time to Laugh: The 84-year-old Bride

A Time to
Laugh: The 84-year-old Bride

Did you know that laughter relaxes your body, increases your immune system, releases endorphins, and safeguards your sanity. And what single mother doesn't struggle with the insanity of the mother load of responsibilities. So what can we younger gals learn from an 84-four-year-old bride?

There's Always Hope

When a 84-year-old bride married for the fourth time, an interviewer asked her questions about her life, her husbands and their occupations.

She smiled and said, "I married a banker in my 20s, a circus ringmaster in my 40s and a preacher in my 60s.

"What's your current husband's occupation?" The interviewer asked.

"A funeral director."

"Why did you marry men with such diverse occupations?"

"Easy, son. I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Diamonds on My Crabgrass

"Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf." —Rabindranath Tagore

Diamonds on My Crabgrass

Dreary, overcast clouds greeted me as I stepped outside, further depressing my already gray mood, until…

Water drops dressing my tenacious crab grass sparkled like dewy diamonds, cheering my spirit. Desiring a National Geographic photo, I wanted to get down to crabgrass level.

No time for wet belly photography, Scoti.

Too Much to Do, Too Little Time

My tight schedule only provided a sliver of time to run errands. I jumped in the car, wondering, When a thick layer of clouds blocks the sun's ray, how is it possible for the dewdrops to catch the light and sparkle? Too often the shadowy haze of the never-ending duties of single parenting obscure the smiles of God's beauty surrounding me.

The priceless, watery jewels' glad voices beckoned. My muse insisted, "Grab your camera—now—and capture their ephemeral magnificence."

I'm too busy.

Would I give into the pressing demands robbing me of this moment to lift hardship's black veil, dimming the sunny spots in my soul? My withered heart suffered from emotional drought. It needed watering.

I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera, and began photographing the fair, sparkling beads shining pure under the gloomy sky.

Click by click…

Each captured droplet refilled the dry emotional well of my heart.

Drop by drop.

And my heart danced.

The Dew of Heaven

My Bible provides a shimmery light piercing the darkness of my life's struggles. God's words are as fresh as the morning dew. His warm love dries my teardrops.

In the valleys draped with depression, I draw hope and energy from his promises. Like the fragile dewdrop's journey, my sorrows will last but a day on God's calendar. Tears of mourning precede tomorrow's bright morning.

Just as the cloudy sky failed to hinder the dew's glisten, I ignored the tug of life's mêlée to stop and enjoy a brief moment of God's antidepressant on display.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pain or Promise: The Price of Children

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."—Charles R. Swindoll

When my monthly childcare bill and apartment rent surpassed my monthly take-home pay, I lived in panic mode. I worried, How will I provide for my sons? When Kristoffer entered first grade, I couldn't afford school clothes.

God provided.

Laurie, my babysitter and dear friend, gave me the clothes her son, Scott, outgrew. As winter approached, I couldn't afford a winter coat for Kristoffer.

God provided.

Years before, my grandmother bought coat lining and I'd purchased navy blue corduroy on sale. Perfect compliments for Kristoffer's new bomber jacket. I stayed up all night sewing a coat, finishing it at dawn, just in time to drive him to school in his new, warm coat.

I found it very painful to overcome my guilt and expectations that I couldn't give my sons more opportunities and things that only money can buy. I wish I'd spent less time allowing money stresses to drain me emotionally and more time thanking God for his provision. Looking back, we survived, thrived, and clung to God's promises.

Single parents often grieve about what they can't give their children, instead of focusing on what we can provide: a strong work ethic, a 'can-do' attitude, and trust in God's ability to meet our needs.

The Price of Children

Single parents worry about the cost of raising a child. Why? It's expensive to raise a child alone, especially without the benefit of child support. The United States Department of Agriculture released the report "Expenditures on Children by Families, 2007" which estimated expenditures two-parent and single-parent families spent on children from birth through age 17. When you look at the cost for single parents—$140,520—it seems insurmountable. And those six figures don't include a college education.

But what does "the cost of raising a child" look like when divided equally by 18 years?

  • $7806.66 a year (my yearly childcare costs were more than this figure)
  • $650.56 a month
  • $162.64 a week
  • $21.83 a day
  • Barely a dollar an hour

The Rewards of Raising Children

And exactly what did I receive for my $140,520 investment?

  • naming rights: first, middle, and last
  • glimpses of God every day
  • lots of kisses, hugs and laughs
  • more love than my heart ever dreamed it could experience
  • endless wonder over rocks, bugs, clouds, video games, and Lego® creations
  • someone to come home to everyday that loved me

For $140,520, I enjoyed childish pleasures. I

  • climbed trees
  • finger-painted
  • carved pumpkins
  • colored Easter eggs
  • found escaped snakes lost in my house

I didn't need an excuse to

  • watch Dumbo at least 122 times
  • read Green Eggs and Ham more times than I could count
  • watch Disney movies
  • wish on stars

I treasure my sons'

  • school art projects
  • handmade Christmas decorations
  • handprints set in plaster
  • painted handprints on sweat shirt
  • handmade cards for holidays

I was a hero for

  • retrieving my sons safely off the roof
  • taking the training wheels off a bike
  • removing splinters and bumblebee stingers
  • buying nails by the pounds to build a tree house
  • coaching my son's basketball team, even though I didn't understand the rules

For a $21.83 a day, there is no greater bang for the hard-earned, single-parent buck. In the eyes of a child (before puberty), I ranked right up there with God. I

  • made boo-boos better with kisses and Superman Band-Aids
  • calmed scary nightmares
  • soothed broken hearts
  • policed slumberless parties
  • grounded my sons for bad choices
  • loved them unconditionally

I received a front row seat in history to witness

  • stitches, stitches and more stitches
  • boys, toys, dogs, and frogs
  • graduation from preschool
  • graduation from kindergarten
  • graduation from middle school
  • graduation from high school
  • graduation from basic training
  • graduation from special forces school
  • graduation from special forces survival training
  • my first born's first born

Along the way my sons and I obtained educations in:

  • life's ups and downs
  • house remodeling
  • landscaping
  • bargaining
  • car repair
  • and God's provision

I love my sons with all my heart and passed my values onto them. Now it's their turn to count the cost of loving—sacrificially, unconditionally—no matter what surprises life springs on them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Maker’s Mark

"I collect antiques. Why? Because they're beautiful." —Broderick Crawford

The Maker's Mark

I love my Victorian quadraplate chocolate pot. When the pot maker formed my beloved pot, he stamped his mark on it. The maker's mark determines its worth. Wear, tear, dents, and damage diminish its value to the discriminator's eye.

As a child, antiques and ancient times captivated me. Oak and walnut antique furniture, old china, and depression glass decorated the homes of those I loved most—old people. As my legs swung from their antique dining chairs, they all sang the same vintage chorus, "Jesus loves you. Love Jesus."

The Bible and historical novels prompted my imagination. What would it be like to sashay around a palace in a beautiful dress fashioned from silk that traveled the Silk Road? What if a prince of a godly man courted me, sweeping my heart away along with his profession of forever love?

I wish my pot could share its memories with me. The first time I cleaned my pot, I wondered, Who was your original owner? Did they love you as much as I love you? How did you get that dent on your lid? Who disfigured your patina? Why were you discarded? Did the owner's heirs find you out of fashion?

My pot may have been a wedding gift given to celebrate love. A pewter-colored patina surrounds the once newly monogrammed "B." The worn handle shows that "B" loved it enough to use it often, rubbing the silver plating away. My less-than-gleaming memory maker probably graced "B's" table for many holidays, family celebrations, and special dinners for guests. Now it sits on my antique table. I enjoy filling it with hot water and my favorite tea to serve those who sit around my table making new memories to cherish.

The dents, dings, and worn silver on my antique chocolate pot remind me the inhospitableness of life and the hospitality offered by my Maker.

How to Fix Dents, Dings or Worn Silver

Rough use inflicted by others damages, discourages, and depresses me. Finances, bosses, friends, in-now-out-laws, family, and stressful circumstances dull hope's patina. I look for my Maker's imprint on my heart, searching for his mark that restores my emotions, spirit, and outlook.

Discarded by the baby daddy? For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth (Isaiah 54:5).

My Makers Mark? God stamped me:

Mine.

Adored.

Rescued.

Overwhelmed by negative thoughts? Because of the multitude of oppressions I cry out for help. God my Maker gives me songs in the night, teaches and makes me wiser. I worship, bow down, and kneel before the LORD my Maker (Job 35:9-11; Psalm 95:6).

My Makers Mark?

Sing.

Rejoice.

Celebrate.

Fearful about your future? May you be blessed of the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 115:15).

My Makers Mark?

Eager.

Hopeful.

Confident.

Feeling shamed by your circumstances? He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5:
Psalm 121:2).

My Makers Mark?

Precious.

Protected.

Cherished.

Struggling with abandonment? The Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, remains faithful forever (Psalm 146:6).

My Maker's Mark?

Safe.

Secure.

Assured.

Making All Things Beautiful in God's Time

The old things I value most are not vintage collectibles stamped with a man-made mark, denoting their worth. My priceless treasures include my family, old friends, well-worn relationships, and long-time companions—God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I no longer value as truth the scratches or dents hard-pressed by men upon my heart. I prefer the restoration stamp of my Maker's mark—beautiful.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

"Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man."—Victor Hugo

Les Miserables—The Miserable Ones

In grade eight, I inhaled the unabridged version of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables—over 1200 pages. I concealed the thick book under my desk at school and read during class. At night, I hid a light under my bed, so I could continue reading until dawn. It was my first page turner. Scenes, characters and life lessons in that book were forever ingrained into my memory.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit Broadway show, Les Miserables, opened at The Pantages Theatre in LA, nothing could keep me from seeing my favorite book—ever—in musical form by my favorite musical composer. A friend secured the tickets and off I went with as the fifth wheel with two couples. My husband did not accompany me to the theatre, because it was shortly after my fifteenth wedding anniversary, when I discovered letters from my husband's mistress. My husband no longer had any interest in a relationship with me.

As Fantine belted out the heartbreaking ballad about unfulfilled dreams's, the Pantages' incredible sound system made it possible for my heart to feel every word of I Dreamed a Dream.

I sobbed. I related to every word.

Like Fantine, I was left alone, a single mother, unemployed, and feeling emotionally destitute.

The first verse reminded me of a time when my husband was kind and our love exciting. Adultery changed my husband. His words, his actions, and his attitudes towards me? Cruel. Heartless. I Dreamed a Dream represented all the pain I felt, the reconciliation that my heart desired, and the reality of my shame. Fantine's soulful song embodied my dreams.

Broken.

Shattered.

Dead.

I Dreamed a Dream

There was a time when men were kind

When their voices were soft

And their words inviting

There was a time when love was blind

And the world was a song

And the song was exciting

There was a time

Then it all went wrong


 

I dreamed a dream in time gone by

When hope was high

And life worth living

I dreamed that love would never die

I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid

And dreams were made and used and wasted

There was no ransom to be paid

No song unsung, no wine untasted


 

But the tigers come at night

With their voices soft as thunder

As they tear your hope apart

And they turn your dream to shame


 

He slept a summer by my side

He filled my days with endless wonder

He took my childhood in his stride

But he was gone when autumn came


 

And still I dream he'll come to me

That we will live the years together

But there are dreams that cannot be

And there are storms we cannot weather


 

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I'm living

So different now from what it seemed

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Hope Is the Word

I felt miserable. I lay my miserables on God's shoulders. Victor Hugo wrote, "A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing." God's Word kept my faith intact. I believed—

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.—Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

'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. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.' — Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.—Joel 2:25 (NKJV)

How Do You Reclaim Your Hope, Your Dreams, Your Life, Yourself?

I've been in search of myself—the young woman, now older, who once entertained hopes, dreams and a calling from God.

The other night a friend and I talked. What happened to our dreams, our callings?

We talked about reclaiming the passion that God put in our hearts.

After our phone conversation concluded, I received an email message entitled "Nothing Is Impossible. Frumpy Lady Wins British Talent Show." I clicked on the link and the story about Susan Boyle who sang I Dreamed a Dream. As Susan sang this song about a single mother, down on her luck, whose years of misfortune stole both her youth and her dreams, she brought the audience to tears and prompted a standing ovation from the audience and my heart.

Tears streamed down my face.

The Song that Once Embodied my Pain, Now Offered Me Encouragement and Hope


And…as I listened, my friend opened an email and clicked on the link.

Yep! God's timing was perfect. The song that once symbolized the death of my marriage, now breathes life and hope into my today, my future, my calling, my dreams.

The vision God placed in my heart long ago refuses to stay dammed by shame. My hopes, dreams, and calling are breaking through the crack in that miserable dam.

I'm in start over mode.

What tattered dreams have you buried under the hurt, hecticness, and hardship of your solo-parent life?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Is Easter Different? Because He Lives

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth a living, Just because He lives."—Bill Gaither




The Passover and The Four Questions

1. Why is it that in all other years we eat bread and matzah, but this year we eat only matzah? Matzah, 'poor man's bread', symbolizes poverty. Bread fills the belly, not the soul. Spiritually impoverished, man does not live by bread alone. Jesus, the bread and manna of my life, daily nourishes my spirit.

2. Why is it that in all other years we eat all kinds of vegetables, but this year we eat only bitter herbs? I expected my life to be better—not filled with bitter, unexpected downturns. Like bitter-tasting medicine, temporary challenges bettered my faith in Adonai Tsoovah, The Lord My Only Salvation.

3. Why in all other years do we not dip even once, but in this year dip two times? Each dip in my fortune and circumstances reminded me: I'm grateful for Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord My Provider, who is my future and my hope—and the source of life and blessings.

4. Why is it that in all other years we eat either sitting or reclining, but in this year we eat only reclining? The lonely, tear-filled life of solo parenting segregated me, a stranger among my religious and married associates. My exile forced me to lean on Jehovah-Ga-al, The Lord My Redeemer. The same power of God that miraculously raised His Son from death, passed over my heart—the tomb enclosing my buried, shattered dreams. Out of tears and hardship, Jehovah-Rophe, My Healer and Restorer, freed my soul from the curse of the law and the slavery of sin. "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives," (Job 19:25 NASB).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

29 Tips to Overcome Overdrive

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."—Kurt Vonnegut


29 Tips to Overcome Overdrive

Running on fumes? Out of gas? Stuck on the solo-parent sidetrack? Is "Me time" a distant memory in your rearview mirror as you speed out of control at 150 miles per hour with no brakes?

You're not alone.

With little time to spare in the Solo Parent Motocross, most single mothers push aside their most basic needs—even rest and nourishment.

When the momentum of fear, frustration, exhaustion, and stress wins, Mommy loses. You're tempted to run away or scream, "I want my mommy!" or let the inner mommy beast roar cathartic, but guilt-producing growls.

To survive everyday chaos, find ways to refresh yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Running on empty? Try these self-care pit stops:

  1. Take a shower.
  2. Go potty when the urge hits.
  3. Hide a stash of the postmodern mom's valium—chocolate. Take your daily dose.
  4. Sleep every chance you get.
  5. Take mini breaks throughout the day.
  6. Exercise and eat healthy, nutritious foods and snacks to increase energy.
  7. Avoid dehydration by drinking less caffeine and more water.
  8. Save time by paying bills online, use the Crock-Pot® or TiVo® your favorite shows.
  9. Swing through a drive thru for a favorite mommy treat.
  10. Simplify your schedule and life.
  11. You can't do it all. Go ahead and put off today's 'To-Do's' until tomorrow.
  12. Give children age-appropriate household tasks and responsibilities.
  13. Seek professional help for hormonal havoc, depression, or extreme physical exhaustion.
  14. Say no to toxic friends and substances.
  15. Quit pining for your pre-solo-parent lifestyle.
  16. Gossip and gripe less. Instead, start a gratitude journal.
  17. Shave, pluck, file, brush, polish, and aromatherapy bathe at least once a month.
  18. Save your pennies to splurge on an occasional massage or pedicure.
  19. Keep commitments to outside activities balanced. Volunteer, only if you want to.
  20. Limit technological invasion. Turn off your TV, cell phone, email, and computer.
  21. Stay in touch with your identity, interests, talents, and friends.
  22. Build relationships and join support networks with other solo parents.
  23. Ask for and accept offers of help to babysit your child to ease stress.
  24. Create family traditions and memories.
  25. Take your child to the park, sit on a bench, soak in the sun, and watch him play.
  26. Laugh—long, hard and often.
  27. Snuggle and pray with your children at day's end.
  28. Meditate on an uplifting reading every day. Pray more and celebrate every day as a gift from God.
  29. Let go of guilt and unrealistic expectations about the mom you're 'supposed' to be. There are no perfect Supermoms—just moms supernaturally empowered by Addiyr Jehovah [ad-deer' ye-ho-vaw']—The Mighty Lord, God.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Perspective: If I Only Had More Money…I Could…

"Many people make the mistake of thinking that all the challenges in their lives would dissipate if they just had enough money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Earning more money, in and of itself, rarely frees people. It's equally ridiculous to tell yourself that greater financial freedom and mastery of your finances would not offer your greater opportunities to expand, share, and create value for yourself and others."—Anthony Robbins



How often have I thought, "If I only had more money I could…?"



  • Afford tutoring for my children
  • Pay for music, gymnastic or art lessons
  • Take my children on a vacation
  • Purchase a great computer for my sons
  • Buy school clothes and supplies
  • Splurge on something I really desire

I tend to think of my lack of money in terms of what money can buy. Too often I focus on what I want, failing to appreciate what I have.

Wonderful sons. Supportive mother. Good health. Great friends. A roof over my head. A car. A job.

It's true that having enough money to pay living expenses relieves stress. It even makes me feel more secure. When you need hope to keep on keepin' on, here's something to keep in your wallet.

A Wish for You…May You Have

Enough happiness to keep you sweet;

Enough trials to keep you strong;

Enough sorrow to keep you human;

Enough hope to keep you happy;

Enough failure to keep you humble;

Enough success to keep you eager;

Enough friends to give you comfort;

Enough wealth to meet your needs;

Enough faith in yourself to inspire you to do your best, and

Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.

When financial lack gets you down, what blessings can you count?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Where Does Inner Peace Dwell?

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.—Psalm 4:8 NASB

Sometimes all I want is peace—no stress, no overwhelming demands, no fear of tomorrow. Why does serenity seem so illusive for the single parent?

What Are the Symptoms of Inner Peace?

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experience
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy the moment
  • A loss of interest in judging other people
  • A loss of interest in judging self
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others
  • An inability to worry (this is a very serious symptom!)
  • Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation
  • Frequent acts of smiling
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than to make them happen
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Can You…?

  • Start the day without caffeine?
  • Get going without pep pills?
  • Always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains?
  • Resist complaining and boring people with your troubles?
  • Eat the same food every day and be grateful for it?
  • Understand when your loved ones or friends are too busy to give you any time?
  • Take criticism and blame without resentment?
  • Resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend?
  • Can conquer tension without medical help?
  • Relax without liquor?
  • Sleep without the aid of drugs?

Then you are probably the family dog!

Thought I was going to get all spiritual, didn't you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stained-glass Momma: A Look into the Window of a Mommy Soul

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." —Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

My sons' preschool years consisted both of bright, blissful days and dark, difficult times. During one challenging time, I enrolled in a stained-glass workshop. After tracing a pattern on colored glass, my wrists rolled outward to snap the scored pieces. Razor-sharp edges sliced my fingers. The glass remained intact, oblivious to the scratch from the sharp, well-oiled cutter.

The broken pieces of my yet-unformed project represented my stained-glass story: the transparency of shattered dreams, the fragility of life, and how would I put together the design of my future amidst disappointment and betrayal?

Against all my hopes and spiritual beliefs, I found myself thrust into the role of solo Mom with a nursing infant and an angry, hurting preschooler. Financially ruined, I felt emotionally bankrupt. I worried, How can Kristoffer and Kyle see the beauty of God's light revealed through me?

This stained-glass momma never wished to be an ordinary piece of clear glass. Only the window of my mommy soul could provide Kristoffer and Kyle a glimpse into my spiritual passion and identity as God's creation. God's truths remained the leading and frame holding together the fragments of my life.

Coloring in God's Design from My Past

Daddy was a pagan. Mother was a regular church-going Methodist. When I was nine months old, my parents attended a Baptist evangelistic service in converted banana warehouse in Mississippi. For the first time they heard: God loves you so much. He sent his son, Jesus, to die for your wrong actions and attitudes. Your sins are forgiven. You can have new life. Trust Jesus. They asked Jesus to forgive them and our family's spiritual heritage changed.

Afterwards, a still small voice whispered to my dad, Tell others about Jesus. He resisted the strong urge to preach. Daddy packed up Mommy and his favorite toddler 'me' and moved us from the land of Dixie to Yankee territory. Daddy was sure God did not live "up north."

He discovered God lived in Indiana too and was still in hot pursuit of his heart. Daddy registered at Fort Wayne Bible College and the bishop appointed him as minister to the Woodburn Methodist Church.

As I wiggled on a church pew, Daddy passionately talked about his Lord. Not all pew sitting was enjoyable. Once Mother pinched my leg as a signal to stay still. I hollered, "Don't spinch me, Mommy!"

During my preschool years, Christ dramatically changed my Mom and Dad. The result? I loved Jesus. Often mom found me standing on a stool in the middle of the kitchen, waving my hands, and preaching.

When I was five years old, I asked my dad to baptize me in the baptistery. He said, "You don't understand what baptism means."

I replied, "Yes, I do. It means I've accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and I love Jesus!" I did not get to swim in the baptismal tank, which was my strong motivation for baptism. Instead, Daddy dinged me on the head with a red rose dipped in holy water.

Over the years, I observed the hours my parents spent inhaling God's Word. As a teenager, I nicknamed my father "a space cadet for Christ." He was the only man in the neighborhood who mowed the lawn in wing tip shoes, church pants, and a button-down, collared shirt, complete with tie. Daddy held the lawn mower with one hand and waved his other hand as he preached.

Before Kristoffer and Kyle 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."

Revealing True Light in the Present

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.

After each Precept class, I
picked up Kristoffer from the toddler nursery. I enthusiastically said, "Guess what I learned about God today?"

My excitement stirred Kristoffer's curiosity. "What, Mommy? Tell me." He listened intently as I distilled God's truths down to a child's language.

Kristoffer challenged me with theological questions, "Mommy, who is the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit look like?"

"The Holy Spirit is God's special helper. He's like the wind. Can you see the wind, Kristoffer?

"No. I feel it."

"Like the wind, you can't see the Holy Spirit, but you can feel him. He also talks inside of you. When you choose to play with a "look don't touch," is there something that says 'No'?"

"Yes, Mommy."

"That, Kristoffer, is the Holy Spirit."

To pass on to Kristoffer and Kyle the same legacy my father left me, I read verses from my Bible. Then I asked, "What did God ask Samuel to do?" "What did Samuel do?" "What did God say He would do?" "Did God do what He said He would do?"

It was important for Kristoffer and Kyle to grasp an accurate picture of who God is—a reliable Father. His Word and character are the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.

Even so, it seemed as if what I studied in the Bible had little practical application to parenting preschoolers. How did the tabernacle, blood sacrifices, a red heifer, and circumcision relate to the challenges I faced with Kristoffer and Kyle? I prayed, "God, please help me apply what I learn to raising my sons."

After reading about Eli's failure to restrain his unruly sons, I asked God, How do I discipline my sons?

One day Kristoffer came to me with my fake fingernail in his hand, "Here, Mommy, I found your fingernail."

"Thank you, son, for finding Mommy's fingernail. Please put it in my hand."

"I'll put it on the dresser."

Normally, I would have affirmed Kristoffer. "Thank you so much. You are such a wonderful son."

However, a study of Judah's response to God's command in Judges flashed through my mind. God's people asked Him, "Who will lead us in the battle against preschoolers… OOPS! the Canaanites?"

"Judah will go. I've given the land to him."

Judah did not conquer the land.

Why?

Instead of depending upon his alliance with God to defeat the enemy, Judah turned to Simeon and said, "Fight with me."

Partial obedience is disobedience.

I recognized Kristoffer's offer to put the fingernail on the dresser as defiance.

"Kristoffer, please put the fingernail in my hand."

"I'll put it on the chest."

Firmly, I responded, "Kristoffer, put the fingernail in my hand."

He angrily slammed it into my hand, and then stomped out of the room.

Well, God, what can You teach me about attitude adjustment?

Leaving Stained-glass Memories for the Future


As a single parent, I wondered how God would artistically place the discolored pieces of my life—loneliness, stress, frustration, exhaustion—in the design of my new unplanned stained-glass life.

The evening Precept group I planned to attend did not have childcare. Turning disappointment into action, I started a group in my home.

I often got up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. to worship, read my Bible, and complete the lesson without distractions. Every time, a sleepy Kristoffer stumbled to my side. As I enjoyed time alone with God, I rubbed his back to put him back to sleep beside me.

During group time, Kristoffer and Kyle were welcome to sit with the women. I instructed them to stay quiet. If they needed anything, I told them to touch my arm, then I would stop and respond. Mostly, they sat on the stairs, laughing and teasing each other. However, their ears and eyes did not miss one word of the Bible study.

Shining the Light on My Life's Designer

One day, four-year-old Kyle declared, "I da boss of myself."

"I'm your boss, Kyle."

"No! I da boss of myself!"

"Kyle. I am your boss."

"Who's your boss?"

"God."

Silence.

Was Kyle thinking about what Lisa of The Simpsons expressed about her view of God? "I'm no theologian. All I know is he's more powerful than Mom and Dad put together."

I tried to communicate my passion to Kristoffer and Kyle that my beliefs about the boss of my life are more than theological or intellectual—they are personal. I hope Kristoffer and Kyle appreciate the artful restoration of the discolored, broken pieces of my mommy soul by the Master Stained-glass Designer.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cruciformity—Why the Cross?

"God always does his best work right after a crucifixion." —Rick Scarborough

At the time I discovered my husband's adultery, I hung out with the quilting grannies at church. I loved their wisdom and how frank they were with each other. They just stated it like it was.

One woman, widowed during the depression with seven kids, told me, "Honey, we all have our cross to bear. If we all threw our crosses into a pile, we'd look at each cross others bear and say, "I can't bear that cross. Ohhh…that cross is too hard. Nope, don't want that one either. Then we'd pick up our own cross."

No One Escapes This Life Without Pain

Being crucified by life experiences is how my spiritual story propelled me towards awe-filled, dynamic relationship with God. My shame and pain constantly intersects with the divine story of the cross.

Like Jesus' crucifixion, the pain of someone else's sin—the man I loved—pierced my heart. That betrayal and abandonment inflicted intense pain—suffering that seemingly destroyed my hopes, dreams and family—yet, ultimately infused life into the passion God placed into my heart. I will never understand how someone can betray his or her spouse.

When my husband failed to meet my needs, opportunities to be unfaithful presented themselves. However, temptation did not entice me to abandon my covenant before God to God and to my husband. The shocking, devastating discovery of my husband's choices revealed God's character, providing the example of how he desires for me to live life—marked by faith, love, power, and hope.

Life's Cross Walk

These simple cartoons reveal a profound truth.












Cruciformity—Reality Unblurred

I've done my share of complaining about the cross I bear. Looking back, I see how God prepared me for the crevices in my life that He could see and I couldn't. Every one fights some kind of battle. My prayer is that the trials, disappointments and hurts I've overcome with God's help will offer comfort and hope to others. With God, all things are possible.

Whatever your cross or pain, sunshine follows the rain.

If you've stumbled or fallen, God will answer your call for help.

God knows every person's heartache, sees every tear. His words calm our fears and heal our souls.

My Savior and God give me grace to bear lingering sorrows.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

March Ahead—Planning Summer Childcare

Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.—Russel Baker

On the last day of school, I want my first thoughts to be, This will be a great summer.

As cold March winds blast my home, I know that peak recruitment for summer childcare takes place. To assess my feelings about the out-of-school-months—I took a 'summer stress test.' The result?

Sister, You Need Help!

Summertime—the living is easy. Right?

Wrong! Work, chores, daycare, and finances never take a vacation.

Summer knocks routine outta whack. It's hard enough maintaining the school-year rat race. The who, what, when, where, how, and cost of securing reliable alternative childcare rocks my pocketbook and nerves. When ice covers my driveway, I'm worrying about surviving summer meltdowns.

It's never too early to make summer plans. The National Camp Association reports that camp registrations start filling up January through March. Don't get stuck on a waiting list holding your breath for cancellations.

  • Review opportunities. Consider trading the routine of costly daycare for adventurous or in-home settings. Evaluate available, affordable options: nanny, babysitting co-op, structured educational or recreational programs offered by community centers, day or resident summer camps, scouting clubs, religious or private organizations, and schools. Make sure they are experienced in gearing programs for your child's age.
  • I prefer an environment that covers my daycare needs, provides an academic break and develops my sons' spectrum of life skills. I also want one that reinforces my values of relating, caring and teamwork. I ask, "Does this program impart principled decision-making, heart skills and social competence?"
  • Seek recommendations. Who endorses this organization? Do you respect this group? What is the adult-to-child ratio? Ask other parents to verify the quality of instruction and the value for the money spent. If you don't know anyone, ask the director for references. Be sure they conduct criminal and sexual offender background checks on anyone caring for your children.
  • Find a good fit. Does your youngster love music, computers, art, or sports? Solo parents always look for positive role models. Find a program that's led by a person of integrity that you would like your child to emulate.
  • Request financial aid. One solo mother saved money by sending her daughter to different programs throughout the summer utilizing scholarships. If grants aren't listed in the brochure, ask, "Is assistance available?"
  • Ask for your children's feedback. Do not assume your kids will enjoy the choices available to them. If options are limited, acknowledge your children's feelings to help process difficult decisions.
  • Consider enrichment opportunities. Three-hour specialty camps or classes or Vacation Bible School offer a welcome break from childcare.
  • Discuss summer plans. Because your children are in the care of strangers, review "bad touch" and how they are to report it to you. Send positive messages to prime their anticipations. Talk up funny summer memories.
  • Crunch the numbers. Will your budget survive? If the other parent changes plans, what is the provider's refund policy? If claiming tax credit for work-related childcare expenses, request the provider's taxpayer identification number or organization's employer identification number (EIN), plus legal name and address. Overnight camps aren't considered a work-related expense, but a specialized day camp qualifies. Questions? Log on to http://www.irs.gov.
  • Take a break from chaos. If your child is old enough to attend a one or two-week residential camp, mosey on over to The Lodge at Elk Valley, a retreat center for single-parent families. For details, contact: Single Parent Family Ministry, Gary Sprague, phone: 719.687.0515, email: gary@spfm.org.