30 Days of Thankfulness

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How many things do we have to be thankful for? I can’t even wrap my mind around all the things we have that we can thank God for… the key to happiness is being grateful for our blessings, even through times of hardship and adversity. You might think you have a terrible life, nothing to be thankful for, nobody loves you or cares about you, or money troubles might be a factor in your unhappiness. I have news for you:

* The simple fact that you woke up this morning is reason enough to be thankful, despite any problems you might have. You’re alive to fulfill a purpose. It’s up to you to figure out what that purpose might be.

* YOU are the engineer of your own happiness. Not your husband, partner, friends, your financial situation, kids, job, stuff you have, etc. You have to consciously think about the blessings you have, and keep them in your thoughts at all times.

* Something people don’t like to talk about: MONEY, stuff, name brand clothes, cars, houses, prestige, status, jewelry, wealth, material things don’t mean CRAP. God can take everything away in a heartbeat. Remember that you can’t take any of that with you when you die. And- having the means to buy stuff won’t make you happy. Being able to buy the finer things in life won’t give you happiness. What will happen, though, is that you will never be satisfied and you’ll always want more. Be content and happy with the relationship you have with God, your family, and friends- in that order. Everything else will fall into place. And do you really want to be known for what you have instead of what you’ve good done in the world? Personally I’d rather die a broke missionary than a rich but lonely and morally corrupt mogul. That’s just me, though.

* Something that you are taking for granted, someone else is praying for. So, that spouse you have who doesn’t behave affectionately towards you but is responsible or a good parent will look mighty good to some lonely person out there. A mother who buried her only child would love to appreciate that kid you have that doesn’t call you on a regular basis but texts you instead. Someone who doesn’t have a job would love to have that job you hate…. Think about it…

During the month of November I’m going to periodically post what I’m thankful for. I would love it if you would share what you are thankful for as well. I would love to read about the many things you have surrounding you that you feel grateful for, no matter how small they may be… For example, even though my car broke down yesterday, I was thankful that I made it home safely, for my supportive family, the AAA guy who did the towing, etc.

Today’s thankful moment: I am thankful for my children, who love me despite my flaws, and who I would give my life for if I had to. There is no better feeling to me than being a mother and I thank God that he gave me the opportunity.

A Lesson in Humility

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I became saved in 2008- and as my best friend Nicole warned- everything in my world hit the fan. The adage that bad things happen when you become saved is absolutely correct. The enemy is extremely upset when he loses a soul and does everything in his power to divert your attention away from your new path to righteousness.

With this in mind, it has been a challenge to change my behavior, my way of thinking, the way I react towards difficult situations, because I had been living my way for 29 years. There are many, many references in the Bible as to how we should behave- and I remember reading some of them and thinking to myself… : “I’m supposed to do what?” To name a few:

James 1:26: If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.

James 1: 19: My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for a man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

Luke 6:27: But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.

Romans 12: 19: Friends, do not avenge yourselves, instead leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.

Two things I have the most trouble with are forgiveness and my temper. I have improved (a lot!) only because God has proven to me time and time again that I dont need to fight my own battles, He will take care of them for me. You might feel satisfaction on the surface if you get even with someone who hurts you. But, you still carry that seed of resentment in your heart, and you still feel anger. Handling your own business means you dont trust Him to handle it. Release your troubles to Him, pray about them, and leave them at His feet. He will handle them better than you ever could.

My temper was another issue- very quick to condemn, curse, yell, lose my cool. Condemning others is something many of us Christians are known for. There is an underlying sense of entitlement; some of us feel we can condemn because we are saved. But- the Bible says the following:

Romans 2: 5: But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement is revealed.

Romans 12:9: Love without hypocrisy….

I remember a few months back I saw a Facebook post about a woman who was proud to be ‘the other woman’ and was gloating about it. Having had loved ones go through infidelity, and knowing the pain of that myself, I let this woman have it. I told her in no uncertain terms what I thought of her. How dare she tear a family apart for her own selfishness! Then, (this is how God talks to us- if we pay attention!) I saw a different post a few minutes later that read “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”- Gandhi.

I remember thinking, wow… Would Jesus condemn this woman like that? I was ashamed at my reaction. We are supposed to love the sinner but hate the sin. (Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…”) How could I call myself a Christian and behave like that? I deleted my comment and gave thanks for God’s immediate correction on my lack of understanding. It’s not my job to judge; its my job to pray. Simply put, if your feeling is to judge, feel superiority, anger, bitterness, then that is not of God. But- if your feeling is to reach out to someone who is making bad choices, leading you to pray for them, help them heal, help them feel love despite their choices, and help guide them to make better decisions, that is what we as Christians are responsible for. Have a great week Fam…. XOXO

A Bright Smile That No One Sees

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of serving the homeless at our annual church Thanksgiving event. My church is a very small but close-knit church; we start compiling clothes, shoes, blankets, food, and start getting ready for this event about 3 or 4 months in advance. There was an awesome spread of food; turkey, macaroni and potato salads, rice and beans, drinks, desserts, and hot dogs and hamburgers, just in case we ran out of food. Not only do the homeless in the neighborhood come, but a lot of needy families show up as well. When I was looking for a church family, I purposely selected a church that was in a low-income neighborhood, because there is more opportunity to help and do the meaningful type of work that God has called me to do.

This year, I was asked to help market the event. During the process of posting fliers at the bus stops and stores around the neighborhood a few weeks ago, I ran into a homeless man who ‘lives’ outside the Family Dollar a block away from my church. He didn’t have any clothes, blankets, or any possessions that I could see, but he did have a large bag full of trash. It was almost like since that was the only thing he owned, he didn’t want to part with it- even though to us, it was just trash. I approached him to tell him about the upcoming event, and he politely declined, saying he didn’t need anything, but thanked me for the offer. I went on my way.

Yesterday during the event, I walked up the block to see if he was still there- and he was. Wearing the same clothes, with the same bag of trash, sitting at the curb watching the traffic go by. I asked him again if he wanted to come by- and again, he politely declined.

I couldn’t help but notice that he is a very good-looking guy. He is tall, thin, with bright blue eyes, and can’t be more than 35 years old. He’s soft-spoken, meek, and won’t make eye contact. I went back to my church, put a bag of clothes together, grabbed one of the guys, and we took the clothes and two plates of food back to my new friend.

Although he didn’t want to accept the stuff “You didn’t have to do that”…, I saw him smile for the first time. My friend Frank (who is wonderful at praying over people) told him that Jesus loved him just the way he is. We wished him well and went back to the church.

I came to a few realizations during this experience.

- The homeless are the voiceless. The more people see them, the more they are ignored, either because people are scared, don’t know how to help, or are disgusted by them because of their appearance. It’s a vicious circle. The more the homeless are ignored, the deeper they sink into depression, hopelessness, or addiction… because they believe that no one cares. The fact that the first thing he said was “You didn’t have to do that” told me he has low self esteem and doesn’t feel he deserves someone to care about him. But- the Bible says that Jesus was also homeless (Matthew 8:20- And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”) So- how do we know that that homeless person you see on the street doesn’t have some great gift for the world, just like Jesus did?

- Anything helps more than just ignoring someone. What could have possible happened to that homeless man to get himself into the situation he’s in? Maybe he’s a veteran. Maybe he has no family. Maybe he lost his job and has no way of picking himself up without someone to help him. Addiction, maybe? It doesn’t matter. Everyone deserves to be loved and acknowledged. Even if you can’t afford to give a few bucks, a simple greeting can work wonders to let someone know they are noticed. Maybe your greeting will give that person the hope they need to get some help.

- His smile showed me how happy he was that someone thought of him. So, if this one tiny gesture made him so happy, how long has it been since someone acknowledged his presence? It was hard not to get choked up while we were talking to him, because I couldn’t help but think that this man was someone’s little boy once, and if it were my son were in the street, I would want someone to help him.

- It is God’s expectation that we help each other, look out for each other, and love each other. (Luke 10:25-27- And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”) It’s difficult to care about everyone, especially people you don’t even know. But it’s our responsibility. The Bible also says that we will be rewarded for doing His works. (Proverbs 19:17- Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.)

My point to writing this is, that during the bustle of the holiday season, take a second to thank God for all that you have. Even if you don’t feel you have much, you have way more than MANY people on this planet. There is always someone worse off than you, and you can also lose everything in the blink of an eye. Stay grateful. Also- take a second to notice the less fortunate. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice much. Even a smile or a ‘hello’ can lift the spirit of someone who hasn’t had anyone to care about them.

Matthew 25:34-40

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

XOXO

A Note to Single Moms: Further Your Education

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A surefire way to descend into a life of poverty, financial and mental, is to neglect your education. Education is extremely important. Furthering your education will ensure that you can continue to provide a good living for your babies. Most importantly, however- you will provide a good example to your children by doing so. Since their birth, I have conditioned my kids to believe that furthering their educations is the norm. I don’t allow mediocrity; I expect and require good academic performance. But I set the example by going to school myself. My children always see me reading books and newspapers, studying, watching educational material on TV, etc. (I won’t sit here and lie- I watch silly stuff like Phineas and Ferb, Hey! Arnold, and Seinfeld. The Golden Girls!!). But I also make sure that they watch stuff that is educational for them.

Furthering your education certainly doesn’t mean you have to earn your PhD (unless you want to!) It just means that you should always strive to be better than you already are. Some people do not find joy in formal education, or are not cut out to go on and receive degrees after high school; that’s perfectly OK. What I’m getting at is, always make an effort to learn something. This will benefit you and your children in the long run. If you’re happy being a secretary, or a nurse, or a day laborer, or a doctor/lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom, that’s great! But always do yourself one better… take a cooking class, take a parenting class, learn sign language, learn how to do nails, whatever! Just learn something. Your babies will follow your example.

My oldest son saw me struggle through high school (I was 15 when he was born), college, graduate school, and study for exams required for my job in finance. Many times, I was exhausted, because I had to do a lot of my work after he went to sleep. But- I understood that my primary job to make sure HE makes it in life OK. This meant many sleepless nights- I had to work full-time to provide for him, help him with homework and be involved in his education, then pull all-nighters. I can’t tell you how many times I ate coffee grinds and Mountain Dew to stay awake studying for finals while he slept, then going to work, then getting home and playing with him. But I did it- and you can do it, too. I’m more than halfway through my MBA right now, and I can tell you that the day I finally graduate, I will be the happiest girl on the planet.

You can do or learn absolutely anything you want to- and in the long run, anything you learn or any formal education that you earn will help you get back on your feet quickly if you ever find yourself without a job. Always remember, you can do anything you decide you want to do, as long as your heart is in it.

XOXO

A Note to Single Moms: Pick a Good Partner

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 Picking a good partner…. What does this mean? Choose a partner who follows your religious beliefs, someone who is responsible, a good provider, treats your kids well, treats you like a princess, who will share in the responsibilities of parenting. Someone who will elevate you, who will see to it that you AND your child(ren) are taken care of. Someone who you can be proud of, who will provide a good influence to you and your child(ren).

I have to point this out, though…. I’m not saying set the bar so high that you dismiss everyone. Some women expect the world from a potential mate, and have ridiculous expectations (He has to be at least 6′ tall, make a certain amount of money, drive a certain kind of car, have a certain type of career, etc. Meanwhile the woman making these demands doesn’t even have their education yet.) Material things don’t matter. Look at it this way- can you take your car, money, worldly possessions with you when you die? Will these things buy your way into the pearly gates? Then no, these things don’t matter.

A great provider in, my eyes, is defined as someone who can provide you with a better life and can make you and your children happy, and can lift you up into becoming the woman you should be. He can be an entrepreneur, a doctor, a sanitation man, a field worker, an attorney. The most important qualities are that he is a good person, a good potential husband and a great father figure. You and your babies deserve NO LESS. Don’t settle for a loser just because you don’t want to be alone- so many women do this, and it’s sad. There are so many men out there who have beautiful hearts, are great providers, are great partners. I know- I found one after my share of losers. He is wonderful… someone who has always encouraged me to be more than I am, someone who has always (without fail) been at every parent/teacher conference, doctor appointment, sporting event, etc. He has also made it his priority to make sure we had everything we needed, be it groceries, child care costs, a car, a house, etc. He has his flaws, yes. But he is still awesome. And to think- I almost missed being with this man, because I was committed to another who was a terrible mate and not the best father figure for my child. I thank God every day for blessing me….

Listen to me carefully:  You do NOT have to settle! There are wonderful men out there who will make excellent mates and parents to your child(ren). The key in finding The One is… preparing yourself to be the best mate you can be… by getting your education, following the Lord’s teaching, learning how to be a Proverbs 31 woman, being the best mother you can be… the Lord will put the right man in your path. But make sure you don’t have any unnecessary obstructions first. Don’t feel bad about cutting people loose who are not the best people/partners/friends for you.

 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1Peter 3:7)

A Note to Single Moms: Don’t Let Being Single Define You

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Just because you’re single and have a child or are struggling, be mindful of the company you keep. I have seen with my own eyes women who will bring a man into their home and around their child(ren), and allow that man to mistreat their kids, swallow abuse and neglect from that man, all in the desperate name of  “He helps me out with the bills” or “I don’t want to be alone”. Come on now, we can do better than that. LADIES, WE ARE OUR KID’S MOMMIES!  We are the only people in the entire world to our children and it is our job to protect them, love and nurture them and make sure they are successful! We need to set a good example for our children. Don’t allow ANY man to disrupt what should be a loving and healthy environment for your kids. Please understand, I am not anti-man; most men are wonderful and every child needs a father. We all have a mate that the Lord put on this earth for us. Don’t settle for just anyone who comes your way. You might find someone who appears to have the total package, but may be missing one (or a few)  integral qualities that you need in order to be happy and run your household according to what the Lord says is suitable for you. Take a good long look at your current situation. If he’s a bad father, a bad provider, a bad friend, runs up your credit, treats his mom badly, treats your children like they are burdens, or as though he doesn’t want them around…. then why even have him around? The bills will get paid somehow. You will find a partner eventually. But don’t waste your time on someone who you know deep down isn’t the right man for you… because you may well be impeding the work the Lord is trying to do in your life. If you’re caught up with some unsavory character, you might miss the man of your dreams. Think about it.

Your baby/babies didn’t ask to be here. Don’t allow anyone to mistreat them, because they are helpless and rely on YOU to protect and love them, and they deserve the absolute best. You deserve the best, you are capable, smart, beautiful, and you will be fine.

Definition of what love is: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” (1Corinthians 13:4-6)