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"You just loosen this bolt and take off the cover. See how dirty the air filter is?" Greg held the dusty filter up toward the light. He dropped a clean air filter into the tray, replaced the lid, tightened the bolt.

My classmates leaned forward to watch Greg's callused hands work quickly under the car's open hood.

When I got my first car, I learned how to fill a gas tank and turn a key. No one told me to check the oil, the coolant fluid, the brake pads. For too many years I bought old, cheap cars and drove them until they croaked. Too many times I had been stranded outside the laundromat or the grocery store. My small hometown did not have a bus system. I needed a running car to get me to work and school.

I enrolled in Greg's "Do-it-yourself Car Maintenance" class. Greg showed his students how to check oil levels, change the oil and filter, gap spark plugs, change tires, and replace a battery. He lectured us about the importance of brake fluid, antifreeze, and new wiper blades.

I learned something significant from the guy with the callused hands and greasy shirt.

We have to work to take care of what is important to us.

When I take care of my car, it lasts longer and gets me where I need to go. When I nurture my friendships, I build strong relationships with people who support and encourage me. When I honor my goals and priorities, I grow and move forward toward my destination.

With regular maintenance our lives move more smoothly. Cars run better. Relationships flourish. Goals become reachable.

Neglect only leads to more problems. Cars break down. Relationships crumble. Progress stalls. When we neglect to maintain the important things long enough, we get stuck and abandoned on the side of the road.

God never leaves us alone on the roadside. When we work to maintain our faith in him, he will pick us up and drive us wherever we need to be.

What is important to you today? How do you maintain it to keep it running well?

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traffic-sign-108779_960_720[1]I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair and shut off the water. I dried off and got dressed while trying to keep my towel and clean clothes out of the puddles on the floor.

When I had walked from our tent to the shower building in the middle of the campground, the sun was just beginning to set. When I pushed open the shower building door and stepped outside, the sun had fallen and the campground was dark.

I was twelve years old and raised to be independent. I was used to walking all over my small hometown alone, and I wasn't afraid of showering alone in a strange campground.

But now the campground was dark, the only light shining from the poles around the shower building. The gravel driveways to the camping sites radiated out from the center in all directions. Each driveway looked the same, a gravel path lined with tents and RV's. I picked the path I thought led back to our tent and started walking.

My flip-flops crunched quietly on the gravel. Campfires flickered on both sides of the road, surrounded by strange and shadowy figures. I heard laughter in the distance, and music from a far-off radio.

I walked slowly to the end of the road, but I didn't see our tent or station wagon, so I turned around and headed back toward the lights of the shower building.

I chose again and walked a different path. I saw the same dark night and flickering fires, but no familiar tent or car. I turned back and tried again, over and over, moving faster every time, fighting the rising panic in my heart and the choking tears of fear and confusion.

Finally, I turned and hurried to the shower building to try again. A flashlight beam bobbed toward me through the night, and my brother asked, "Where have you been? It's dark out here."

I have walked many paths in my life. Often I start out feeling confident and sure of my destination, only to wind up wondering where I am and why nothing looks familiar. Many times I have turned back and started over, trying again and again to reach some goal that seemed shadowy and unclear.

If I had stayed near the light and safety of the campground shower house, my brother would have found me, and I would have been safe in my sleeping bag much sooner.

If we stay still and keep calm, God will come to find us. He is always out there searching, and he will lead us on the proper path toward home.

Have you ever felt lost and afraid? How did you get found again?

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woman-1006100_960_720[1]In an episode of the Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing, Mike confronts his daughter Mandy for taking her nephew's ADHD medication to score better grades on her college finals.

At first Mandy becomes indignant and denies taking the drugs. "Other students use ADHD meds to study and take tests, but I wouldn't," she insists.

Mike says nothing, but fixes his daughter in an unwavering gaze and waits, patiently.

"But it would only be fair if I did, because if you don't, you're basically at a huge disadvantage," Mandy reasons.

Mike frowns, but stays silent.

"If I had taken them, how would that be any different than energy drinks or coffee?" Mandy asks.

Mike watches her.

"But I didn't take them."

Mike waits.

"OK. I took them."

Mike knew his daughter, and no amount of denial or evasion from Mandy could conceal the truth from being revealed.

God knows the facts about each of his children, and no amount of denial or evasion from us can hide the truth he already knows.

I've confessed in an earlier post that I battle an anger problem. Beneath my sweater-soft exterior lurks a fury that has been known to hurl profanity and plates with equal abandon. Just ask my husband.

Today I prayed, "God, I am angry, and you are unfair," but embellished with many expletives and exaggerations. And I know my outburst was no surprise to God. He already knows my nature and has been watching my temper tantrums for many, many years.

But I was surprised, because once I named it, my anger felt easier to tame. Once confessed, my feelings seemed easier to control. After pouring out my heart to God, I calmed and did not throw a single plate.

God wants to hear our true feelings in prayer, because feelings revealed are often relieved. He is never surprised or offended by our honesty. When we confess all to him, God is faithful to forgive and set us right again. He watches and waits for us to come clean, because he cares and he knows the truth will always set us free.

What are your honest emotions today? God wants you to share all your feelings with him.

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Single moms have always made amazing accomplishments. We have worked hard to raise our families and fulfill our dreams. Below are ten well-known single moms whose stories have inspired others.

Chris Affleck divorced when her son Ben was 11. Years later she accompanied Ben to the Academy Awards when he won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting.

Maya Angelou became a single mother when she was 16 years old. Angelou wrote a best-selling memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She recited her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" at President Clinton's inauguration.

Mary Kay Ash raised three children after her first marriage ended in divorce. Mary Kay went on to establish Mary Kay Cosmetics and to inspire thousands of beauty consultants to achieve success.

Naomi Judd supported her two daughters by working as a waitress and a secretary. Naomi and her daughter Wynonna later became the Grammy Award-winning country music duo The Judds.

Virginia Clinton Kelley lost her first husband in a car accident, and her second husband was a physically abusive alcoholic. Virginia's son Bill became President of the United States in 1993.

Coretta Scott King, continued to work for civil rights and raise her four children after her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Toni Morrison raised two sons while working as an editor and college professor. She also wrote award-winning books including: Song of Solomon, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye.

 

J. K. Rowling was divorced and living on government assistance before writing the best-selling Harry Potter series. She is now one of the wealthiest women in Great Britain.

Debbie Phelps worked as a middle school principal and raised three children after her divorce. Her son Michael won 22 medals for Olympic swimming.

Sofia Vergara  raised a son after divorcing her high-school sweetheart. She received four Golden Globe nominations for her role as Gloria on Modern Family.

Millions of single mothers work hard every day to support their families and pursue their goals.

Whose story inspires you? Who encourages you to be an amazing single mom?

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easter-328210_960_720[1]My daughter loves Peeps, those pink and yellow marshmallow chicks that appear in stores every year around Easter.

Each year I buy her a package from the rainbow-colored rows that line the store shelves. This year I caught the gaze of a Peep's innocent and trusting eyes, and I considered I have something to learn from the unassuming simplicity of Peeps.

Be Sweet.

A Peep's only purpose is to make people happy.

When we are kind, gentle, and considerate we share our natural sweetness.

We were made to bring joy to others.

Be Soft.

A Peep has no hard, crunchy coating to protect its squishy center.

When we are tender, caring, and compassionate we communicate our natural softness.

We were made to let our hearts melt.

Be Colorful.

Each Peep proudly displays its yellow, pink, blue, or purple plumage.

When we are vibrant, bold, and confident we bring light and life to a world in need.

We were made to make the world a brighter place.

Peeps never wonder if they are good enough. They never worry if they are doing what they were made to do.

Peeps realize they are special treats that are available for only a limited time. They know that by being sweet, soft, and colorful, they are doing exactly what they were created to do. Peeps know they are loved and appreciated for all the qualities that make them Peeps.

This Easter I encourage you to embrace your Peep qualities. Know you were made to be appreciated and loved.

How do you express your sweetness to the world? How do you display the colors that make the world a brighter place?

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Sometimes moms need reminders to slow down, relax, and enjoy the time we have with our youngsters. Years pass quickly, and now is the time to make memories and build relationships with the most important people in our lives.

Play on the floor.

Children will remember the time we spend engaged with them at their eye level. When we sit down and make them the focus of our attention for a little while, they know they are important in our eyes.

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Special memories are made of simple times. A sandwich served on a paper plate under a shady tree can be enough to create a lasting and treasured memory of time spent together.

Read together every night.

Whether we read the same book repeatedly, or explore a variety of titles borrowed free from the library, what matters to children are the feelings of being held and loved.

Walk and talk.

Every day is an opportunity to notice our environment and discuss what we see. Children learn by exploring the world around them; and adults have fun seeing flowers, birds, trees, and bugs from a child's perspective.

Let kids help.

The smallest children can help bake cookies or fold laundry. Letting children help with making beds or putting away toys builds their sense of initiative and capability.

Say "please," "thank you," and "I love you" often.

Children need to hear positive language too. When we use words that nurture and encourage, we teach children to behave and communicate positively.

Listen to what they say.

Adults are often surprised by the level of insight and understanding children can express. When we pay careful attention, we can be amazed at what our children share.

Pray together. 

A few words of prayer every day have a powerful impact on our well-being. It is important to express our thanks for all we have and share our concerns for whatever we need.

Be grateful.

We have so many reasons to be thankful! We are blessed with love, strength, and laughter. We need to remember to appreciate all we have and to express our gratefulness.

Remember moms are important.

Every child's favorite people are his or her parents. We are important influences on the lives of our children. Children will value the relationships we nurture with them.

How do you enjoy spending time with your children? What do your want your kids to remember about your special times together?

Remember you are blessed!

 

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At 2:36 a.m. a creepy grating noise nudged me awake. The annoying, crunching sound vibrated through my dark bedroom.

What is that?

I heard the noise again, hard as teeth grinding on metal.

It's under the bed.

I sat up and saw a dark shape streak from my bed toward the dresser. I scrambled to my knees and saw the shape slide under my bed again.

I snapped on the light and discovered my daughter's gerbil had escaped from its cage and burrowed into the box-spring of my bed. The creepy noise was the gerbil sharpening her teeth on the metal coils.animal-1238374_640[1]

I rousted my daughter awake. For a while we knelt on opposite sides of my bed and made sleepy grabs while the gerbil darted back and forth between us.

"Get out of the way."

I threw quilts and blankets onto the dresser, flipped the double-sized mattress up against the wall, then hauled the box-spring out of the frame. The gerbil continued to evade us by scurrying among the dust bunnies and the shoeboxes knocked sideways in the chaos.

I dumped dirty laundry into the corner, overturned the plastic laundry basket, and slammed it down, trapping the gerbil underneath. While I tried to figure out a way to move her from the basket to the cage, the gerbil was already chewing her way through the plastic bars. I slipped my hand under the side of the basket, but the gerbil bit my finger and dashed away.

This time the gerbil made the mistake of hiding in a shoebox that had gotten tipped on its side during our pursuit. I slapped the lid on the box, scooped up the box with the gerbil inside, and dropped her back through the open door of her cage.

I knew the gerbil belonged in her "Happy Hamster Home" with climbing tunnels, running wheel, and food and water dispensers. I knew there she was safe, comfortable, and always well-fed.

God knows where we belong and what is best.

When we stop running around in the dark and trust in him, he promises to take care of us and give us all we need.

When we try to outrun or hide from him, God pursues, until sooner or later, we get scooped up and placed exactly where we are meant to be.

How is God pursuing you today? Where is he telling you to stay and trust?

 

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At the edge of the parking lot, the women pitched rocks. The rocks arched up and over the fence, then dropped into the high grass of the empty lot on the other side.

The women threw the rocks to symbolize discarding the concerns that burdened them. I duplicated the activity at home to help get some clarity of my own.

Find two rocks and a permanent marker.

Check driveways, parks and flower beds for rocks. I found two rocks beside the sidewalk outside my front door. I found the marker in my desk drawer.

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On the first rock:

Write a word describing a trait you like about yourself. I wrote "compassion" because I care about sharing the life stories of the single moms I know.

On the second rock:

Write a word describing a trait you want to let go. I wrote "anger" because for years I have carried resentment and anger about experiences in my past.

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Keep the first rock as a reminder of the quality you want to encourage and preserve.

Take the second rock outside and throw it away. Pitch it into a field, a pond, a lake, a sewer grate.

Be careful not to hit people, windows, or passing cars.

Pray and ask God to help you release the burden you threw away with the second rock. Express your gratitude for the blessing you named on the first rock.

Walk away feeling lighter because some of the weight that was holding you back has now been left behind.

Everyone has a burden they want to throw away. Everyone has positive characteristics to be admired. Sometimes remembering the positive helps us forget the negative entirely.

Post a comment about your rock-throwing experience. What did you write on your rocks? How did you feel after throwing one away? How will you honor the quality you want to keep?

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The Lion thought he was a coward. He was frightened by spooks, winged monkeys, and the Wizard. But when called to complete a dangerous mission, the Lion found the strength to pull his friends up the mountainside, invade the castle, and rescue Dorothy.

I thought I would never finish college. I was afraid of completing financial aid paperwork, facing grade reports, and talking to other students. But I managed to pass one class, and then another, until five years later I finally finished my Bachelor's degree.

When I felt most insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser. Every time I saw him I was reminded to continue acting courageously, although I often felt fearful.

"True courage is facing danger when you are afraid." L. Frank Baum

Take One Step

The Lion traveled a yellow brick road lined with talking trees and poisonous poppies, but he kept moving forward. Continue putting one foot in front of the other despite your uncertainty, and you will be rewarded at the end of your journey.

Associate With Courageous People

The Lion had Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man to keep propelling him forward. Surround yourself with faithful friends who support and encourage you, and offer to give your help to others who need your encouragement.

Trust the Source of Your Strength

The Lion had the Wizard to award him the medal for bravery. Believe you have access to a source of power greater than yourself, and he is able to give you exceedingly, abundantly more than you ask or imagine.

Everyone can realize miraculous reserves of confidence and purpose. It takes answering the call and stepping forward in faith to truly discover how courageous we can be.

How do you find courage? Remember to comment and share your thoughts and ideas with others. You are always welcome here, and you are never alone.

Liz

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