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.


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?"



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.