Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Gonna Be a Great New Year! Bring on 2012

It's the day after Christmas. Some folks are just waking up, bleary eyed from the holiday parties,exhausted from the hustle and bustle--or simply too many sugar-laden treats. Others are already out the door, hungry for sales and deep discounts.

But whether you are home from work enjoying a day off, or on your feet at a store all day, take some time later on to reflect on the year behind you...and make room for the new one.

What did you enjoy about this past year? What were some good things? And, what are some things you want to CHANGE or GET RID OF? Out with the old, in with the new!

Instead of New Year's resolutions, which many people make and break, how about declaring what you really want to happen in 2012 and having HOPE. Pray about what you want to be different in the new year. Because prayer is where the true power comes for lasting change.

Prayer is talking to God, and listening, in a holy conversation. He is the one who can give us the courage, self control, or freedom we need to make better choice---and have better lives!

May your New Year be bright with hope....may it be an amazing 2012 with MORE than you can ask or imagine.

As for me, I believe 2012 is gonna be a good one!

Praying on!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Is Christmas?

To some it is Santa and snowmen and toys,
To some it’s the shopping, bright wrappings and noise,
To others it’s family and everyone’s home,
To me, it’s much more. Let me share in this poem…

Christmas is where it all began,
An infant child who became a man.
Eternity came down so we could understand,
The child of Creator, the true Son of Man.

He was not unexpected, for the prophets foretold
The events that had happened would surely unfold.
Four hundred years later the miracle came,
The star over Bethlehem shone where He lay.

They came to attend Him from near and from far,
The shepherds and wise men who followed the star.
All were rejoicing that first Christmas night
At the child of a virgin, a humbling sight.

So what is the meaning of that first Christmas night?
Simply, He came to make everything right.
For the Child had a purpose in coming to Earth.
He came as a light and to give us new birth.

He gave us forgiveness and paid with His life.
What kind of love would pay such a price?
For death could not hold Him; He rose from that grave.
And freedom and life were the gifts that He gave.

No longer divided, no longer alone,
Because of His love the wall had come down.
Live free forever! O, what a gift!
Both now here on earth and forever with Him.

Wise men and angels followed Him then.
Wise men still seek Him, again and again.

                                   -- Jackie M. Johnson

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pounded for a Purpose

What do you need to let go of in your life in order to get to the next stage of your life?

Surrender. It implies giving up, or letting go. Often, we don't want to do it. But surrender is voluntary; we choose it.

Or not.

We need to know that sometimes our lives take many forms in order to accomplish God's purposes. We let go of one thing in order for another to happen--but often we don't realize that it's for a good purpose!

For instance, in order for you to eat a piece of hot, fresh bread from the oven a lot of surrender had to take place. A seed in the soil turns to golden wheat sheaves. The wheat is harvested, surrender to the cutting. Then it is crushed to make flour, and flour is used to make the dough. Making bread by hand means the dough is pounded, kneaded, but pounded for a purpose. How many times in your life have you felt that way?

Then the dough surrenders to the heat of the oven. And finally, it's ready. You smell the delectable aroma of freshly-baked bread.

The good purpose is revealed: yummy bread or something else. What are the seeds in your life that need to be surrendered to the soil of faith?

What is God growing, creating in your life?

Pray, surrender, wait and see. And pass me a slice of bread.

I am Wheat

I am wheat,
tall, willowy, golden brown stalks
swaying gently in the breeze,
basking in the amber glow of twilight.
I live
because a seed first died --
a small, hard piece of potential
buried in the soil of opportunity
I thrive,
through summer storms and sunshine,
delighting the prairie.
Harvest time:
From kernels gathered and crushed,
flour becomes dough,
kneaded with skillful hands,
pounded for a purpose.
I wait
and wait to rise and bake,
for timing is essential.
I am a crusty loaf,
carrying the delightful aroma
of fresh baked bread to the world
for the One who said, “I am the bread of life.”

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forgiving Someone Who's Hurt You, Especially After a Breakup

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
– C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness is like a brilliant diamond; there are many facets to it. Today I will present one aspect of it.

So something happened. Someone hurt you and now you are ticked, angry, hurt or some other combination of emotions.

Neil T. Anderson says that the more traumatic your experience, the more intense will be your primary emotion. According to Anderson, an event in the present triggers the primary emotion and sets off something inside that may have been dormant for years.

A relationship breakup, for instance, could activate emotions like intense anger or extreme feelings of rejection, and you may be puzzled as to why you are reacting the way you do—and why you cannot let go. Realizing that the past is creeping into your present will help you to deal with it.

Two ways to find resolution are: First, understand that you are no longer a product of your past. “You have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in the light of who you are today, as opposed to who you were then,” said Anderson. Second, forgive those who have offended you.

Easier said than done. Right?

Forgiveness is the key to healing
A major key that heals brokenness after a relationship ends is forgiveness—whether it’s forgiving past pain, forgiving the person who hurt you in the present, or forgiving yourself. “Forgiveness,” according to Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III in Bold Love “is the light that penetrates the dark and frees the somber, shamed heart to leap with love.”

Whether the offense was in the past or the present, holding onto that pain not only continues to hurt you, it can also block you from moving forward.

The pent up pain turns into bitterness, resentment, or offense and the emotional poison works its way into other areas of our lives. With stubbornness, pride, ignorance or sheer selfishness we cling, like those brown crunchy leaves that cling to trees in winter (long after their season has ended), to what we want or what we think should happen. “He is wrong, and I’m right.” “I want justice (or revenge).” “What he did was inexcusable.”

You don’t owe me
Years ago at a singles retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin, Andy Stanley gave a talk on the topic of forgiveness. I remember him saying something to the effect that when you do not forgive, it’s as if you hold that person hostage in your heart. You take them out once in a while, beat them up, and put them back.

When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something. They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding them prisoner, but you are the one with the pain. T

hen Stanley opened his hands, and with his palms turned up said something like, “Forgiveness means we release that person and say, ‘You don’t owe me.’” You don’t owe me.

How do you go from a place where you feel someone is emotionally indebted to you to a place you can release and forgive? Often people find it difficult to forgive because they are not clear on what forgiveness is and what it is not.

What forgiveness is…and is not
Forgiveness is not forgetting about what happened or acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it.

You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions. Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would.

As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

I like what C.D. Baker says about God’s justice in 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day, “Yes, God seeks justice and so should we. He grieves when we are oppressed or taken advantage of, and he demands justice on our behalf. But what we forget is that Jesus already paid the price for others’ violations against us…and for our violations against them. We don’t need to seek vengeance.”

Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Artist at Work

the heart breaks, not in half,
but in a hundred thousand tiny pieces,
like glass,
smashed against a hardwood floor
that scatters.

the Master rebuilds, not in haste,
but lovingly and tenderly in time,
like a craftsman,
fashioning a work of art
restoring the shattered fragments of a broken soul.

from shards of glass, radiance!
a brilliant new piece is created,
glistening in the light of early dawn.
a vessel of beauty, Lord-built,
from the splinters of yesterday.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Time for Everything - About Waiting

When waiting seems hard
And things seem to be slow,
When the stoplight says, “wait”
And you just want to go,
Here’s a lesson in timing
For your life and mine:
God is not slow.
No, He keeps perfect time.

Can you say to a newborn,
“Get up and run?”
Or make the moon rise
In place of the sun?
Can you order a rosebud
To open up now?
Or hurry a calf
Being birthed from a cow?

To everything there’s a time
And an hour,
For our lives to unfold
And for roses to flower.
There’s a reason and purpose
For every delay,
And with patience and timing
We’ll get there someday.

For the work of waiting
Is finally believing
That it all comes from God
Who delights us in giving.
And His power will bring forth
What is best, and we’ll find
That deliverance will come,
For He keeps perfect time.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A New Day Cafe Blog Reaches 98 Countries

Hello readers,

Today is a day to celebrate!

As of October 1, 2011 this blog, A New Day Cafe, has reached readers in half the countries in the world (98 of 196 countries).

My goal is to blog words of hope and encouragement--to help people to get over relationship breakups and to have a better life. And I want to thank you for reading. I hope you've found help and hope from these words--from God's heart, to my hands, and into your life.

Here are the countries who've read A New Day Cafe blog in the past two years. Thank you! I pray for my readers each day.

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, India, Australia, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Sri Lanka, France, Israel, Bolivia, Qatar, Ukraine, Iran, Japan, Indonesia, Poland, Columbia, Spain, Ghana, Slovakia, Vietnam, Antigua and Barbuda, China, Pakistan, Denmark, Morocco, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Sweden, South Africa, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uganda, Belgium, Thailand, Nigeria, Tunisia, Guyana, Maldives, Mexico, Switzerland, Romania, Singapore, Palestinian Territories, Reunion, Greece, Peru, New Zealand, Jordan, Serbia, Finland, Kenya, Lithuania, Iraq, Trinidad & Tobago, Sudan, Hungary, Malaysia, Taiwan, Malta, Latvia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Namibia, Ghana, Belarus, Jamaica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Honduras, Algeria, Hong Kong, Senegal, Ukraine, Norway, Slovenia, Georgia, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, Cambodia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Moldova, Kuwait, Oman, and Croatia.

Thank you. May you be blessed and find fresh hope for today!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kind Words Bring Blessings

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24

Most likely you’ve heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Think again. Words do harm people. In fact, we have the power to hurt or to heal with our words.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” We can use what comes out of our mouths for building up or tearing down, for blessing or for cursing. Every word we speak can cause growth, like water to a tree, or destruction, like an axe to the tree trunk.

As a child, words – kind or harsh – were spoken to you and they became some of the building blocks of the foundation of your self. Like gray bricks in the foundation of a house, the words that were said (or not said) formed your structure. Today, you may still be trying to heal from the cracks in your soul’s foundation.

Thankfully, God’s foundation is strong; His is a foundation of love, justice and righteousness. Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” With His strength, we can learn to say kind words more often to strengthen the foundation of those around us.

They say it takes 11 positive comments to heal one negative word spoken. If that’s the case we need to heed the words of one wise person in Proverbs to build up one another, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

Will your words build up or destroy another today? The choice is yours.

Lord, let love be my foundation. Give me the wisdom to speak kind words to others to build them up not tear them down.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Love Yourself, Be Yourself

When you love yourself, and you know God loves you, you can make smarter choices in relationships. Loving yourself means you can be yourself, not an exact replica of the man you’re dating. You have enough self respect not grovel when he says he no longer wants to go out with you. You say “no” when you really don’t want to spend time with a guy, instead of leading him on by trying to be nice. You speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Loving others starts with Jesus’ words “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31). Like women, men need affirmation, appreciation and encouragement. They also receive love as you respect them and trust them. Whether you end up dating or marrying a new man, or just seeing him a few times, treat him well—the way you’d want to be treated—with kindness, grace and forgiveness.

Love God enough to listen to what he says, to follow Him, and to ask for wisdom. Let Him be the first one you run to when you need to make decisions. Love him enough to trust him, because He really does know what He’s doing even when we don’t understand.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs. 3:5). God is all about fixing brokenness. He delights in restoration and brings renewed hope and joy after rejection. Loving, faithful, and more than able, He is your Dream Come True.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wait for Love, Not Just "Friends With Benefits"

Signs and signals are important for our safety on the road and in relationships. Have you ever been in traffic and the car in front of you flashes a bright red left turn signal, and then suddenly turns right.

Um – what’re ya doing?

When a man treats you like that, and sends mixed signals, it can be confusing. It’s time to ask questions and get clarification.

What kinds of signs is he giving you? Does he act like a boyfriend and then treat you like a friend? Does he just want to be physical (sexual) with you, and then act like he doesn’t even know you? If he doesn’t pursue you, don’t settle for being a “friend with benefits?” You deserve better.

Think about this: Lust visits, love stays. Lust takes, love gives. Lust is selfish, love puts the other person first. You can tell over the course of time a man’s intentions. “Only time can reveal the difference between infatuation and lasting love,” says Bill Hybels in Fit to Be Tied.

To be a woman of integrity, go to the source of integrity, the Bible. This helpful and holy book addresses what to do, and not do, with your body before you are married. We are to honor God with our bodies, not degrade them.

For instance, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Sex is for two people who’ve made a commitment, a marriage covenant. In fact, one of the best gifts you can give your husband on your wedding night is yourself. Hebrews 13:4 affirms that, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” God’s words, not mine.

Sadly, sex before marriage is so prevalent in our contemporary culture that sometimes people forget God intended this intimate expression of love for a lifelong committed relationship called marriage. Not outside of it. In the context of marriage, it’s a special and incredible thing that, like a fire in a fireplace, brings warmth, comfort and joy.

In the wrong context, it's like a cozy fire that burns outside of the fireplace’s boundaries and becomes out of control--it sets the house ablaze, damaging your property and destroying your life.

Not good.

If you’ve already gone too far sexually, you can find healing and forgiveness. You can become what one woman I know calls, “a born-again virgin.” Talk to God about it in prayer. Confess what you’ve done wrong and ask for his forgiveness. And our gracious God will forgive you and make you clean and pure again. Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8).

Emotional and physical boundaries
A few years ago, Scott Croft wrote a column for the website, a Focus on the Family webzine for singles. In it, he talked about how God’s word (in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) “admonishes us not to wrong or ‘defraud’ our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist.”

The passage tells us, among other things, to avoid sexual immorality, control your body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust.

Many times women have come to me and said they felt terrible (used, shamed, hurt) when they gave in to the sexual demands of a man who was not their husband.

Whether it was a boyfriend trying to push his limits or just a guy they hooked up with, they were "defrauded," used, and not treated as they deserved to be—with love, respect, and honor. When someone uses you for his or her own selfish pleasure, no matter what the level of physical intimacy, it can be inappropriate both physically and emotionally, according to Croft.

And hurtful.

People can wound you with words or with their actions. That’s why boundaries are vital in dating and relationships—both the physical limits of how far you will or will not go sexually (to guard your body) and emotional limits of what you will or will not accept from others verbally and relationally (to guard your heart).

In their classic book, Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend describe the protective device like a fence, “Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matthew 7:6) so that people will not steal them.”Your heart is a treasure, and so is your body.

Guarding your heart means you don’t “play house” by acting like you’re married when you are not. Doing so can be very hurtful when you break up because the emotional ties you’ve created now need to be severed. Protect your heart from emotional injuries you were never designed to incur.

What will your boundaries be in your next relationship? How will you enforce them?

Your precious heart's depending on it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Looking for Love? Having Realistic Expectations

While it’s good to have standards and consider the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of your ideal person, it’s also wise not to expect perfection. The “right one” will be the one best suited for you if you include God in your love life. Make a list and pray about this important choice.

Love will be more successful when you don’t expect a man—or anyone—to be faultless. Of course, we know that men and women are different in many ways, so the more we learn about the opposite sex, the greater chance we’ll have for better communication, with less frustration and more mutual enjoyment of each other.

In Finding Mr. Right, Stephen Arterburn reveals that the heart of a man is the most important part of his anatomy. “Often women focus on the wrong traits and mistake character flaws for strengths. They desire the confident, self-assured man, and mistakenly end up with an uncaring and demanding jerk. Wanting strength, they may shun a man who has a sensitive side, who actually is interested in who they are and how to please them.”

He also says that the wise woman looks for the inner man, not the exterior. “…the inner man who is secure enough to love, free enough to laugh, and humble enough to learn.”

It’s also important not to have unrealistic expectations about marriage. Some people idealize the fantasy of what they think marriage is supposed to be, and sometimes a reality check is needed.

I have a coworker friend who’s been married for over a decade. He and his wife have a large family and, from seeing them at a few work functions I surmised that they had a happy, strong marriage that was conflict-free and breezy. I once said to him, “You guys make it look so easy.” His easy grin turned serious when he replied, “It’s taken us years to get to this place.” Huh. I needed to heart that. I needed to know that marriage, like any relationship, has its ups and downs. It takes dedication to live out the commitment.

As challenging as it can be at times, marriage can also be amazing. The bride and the bridegroom are a picture of how Christ loves the Church. It’s a commitment before God and man to love, honor, and cherish this person all the days of your life—for better or worse. Even when he scatters his clothes on the floor or you are sick. Even when your kids are screaming and you haven’t talked to another adult all day. But when you’ve found someone who accepts you even when you have PMS, and he passionately loves you and loves God with all his heart, you know you’ve found a really good thing.

As you think and pray about what you want in a life partner, keep a realistic view of marriage, both the bright side and challenging side.

Friendship or Dating – Discerning the Difference
Another place to open your eyes and have realistic expectations is in knowing where you stand with a guy. “The Unknown Zone,” the peculiar place between friendship and dating where you don’t really know what your relationship is or where you stand. It may turn into something real and lasting, or it may not. How can you know when he doesn’t communicate or his signals are mixed?

Michelle McKinney Hammond gets to the heart of the matter in The Unspoken Rules of Love. “If he does not ask you to have an exclusive relationship with him, assume that you are not in one.” He needs to be initiating and pursuing you. If not, she continues, “Consider and enjoy your other options. Do not behave as if you are in a committed relationship when you are not. Doing so will only entangle your heart and set you up for disappointment and heartbreak. If he doesn’t tell you he wants to be in a committed relationship, consider yourself officially ‘just a friend.’”

A pastor I know once said, “The proof of desire is in the pursuit.” If a man wants to get to know you, you will know his intentions. You won’t have to guess. Don’t give him excuses like maybe he’s busy, maybe he’s shy, maybe he’s had a family crisis, or maybe (fill in the blank).

Bottom line: For whatever reason (you don’t even have to know what it is) if he is not pursuing you, then you need to let it go. March forward with your life and trust God for the right man for you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Looking for Love? Become the Right Person

Becoming a woman of high standards

Often books on relationships emphasize finding the right person to date or marry, but it’s also important to become the right person.

To have the lasting love and intimacy you desire it’s essential to identify unhealthy patterns in your own life, change what you can about yourself, and then come into greater clarity about the qualities you want in another person.

Identify unhealthy patterns. Healthy relationships grow when we know our true identity (who we are in Christ) and respect our individuality and uniqueness. They also flourish when we know and connect with who God is (His character) and how that makes a difference in our life.

We are all made with different habits, personality traits and ways of relating. However, sometimes we do things in a relationship that hurt ourselves or damage the connection and we don’t know why.

Sometimes we know our weak spots and sometimes we are blind-sighted. Beth works at a major university and she’s been a Christian believer for years. Like many women she talks with her friends about men and reads books and articles about them. She thought she had relationships figured out—and then Ty showed up. He was not on the same page spiritually or emotionally, and she knew he wasn’t right for her. Yet little by little he wore her down with his charisma and charming words.

Beth spent time with him knowing it couldn’t go anywhere and every day her heart got more and more invested in the wrong man. She also knew she was spiritually starving because she hadn’t read her Bible (her spiritual food) for months. Hungry for attention, she forgot the wise words in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Her affections of the heart were strong and were leading her down a path that only meant trouble. Although she was strong in her faith, she realized that without the firm planting of God's word as her truth, she was just as vulnerable as the next person.

She knew something had to change and over the next few months she began to remember where her true value came from; it was God’s opinion of her, not a man that really counted. As she filled her heart with God’s promises about her worth and value, and how much God loves her, Beth became stronger and was able to make better decisions about who she would spend time with in the future.

Think about your past dating experiences. What went wrong? Why did it end? It’s helpful to identify any patterns in your dating experiences that may be sabotaging the love you desire. You can start by making a list of things you’ve learned from past relationships—things you’ve done that you don’t want to do again. Here are some examples:

* stayed too long in a dead end relationship
* didn’t stand up for yourself when he hurt you with words or actions
* gave in when he wanted to go farther physically than you wanted to
* stubbornly wanted your own way all the time
* didn’t know what to do when he treated you poorly
* lived in a fantasy world of thinking one day “it will be more” when he only wanted friendship
* pursued him when you should’ve waited for him to pursue you
* rushed from one relationship to next when you weren’t ready love again.

Change your thoughts and actions. Now that you know what you don’t want, it’s time to get to make some changes. What do you want to do differently next time? Maybe you didn’t know you were being treated poorly by a man because that’s what you’ve been used to your entire life. You didn’t know “nice” men existed, or that you were worth being treated well. Maybe you’re the kind of person who breaks up because you don’t want the other person to leave you first. Or you repeatedly pick Mr. Wrong, and don’t know why.

You don’t have to stay stuck in patterns of the past. Ask yourself why you’ve made unwise relationship choices? If you don’t know, then pray and ask God to reveal to you any habits or patterns that have been holding you back.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. You can start by picking one area at a time and doing something, because small steps lead to big changes. By altering what you do, your actions, it will change how you think and feel. In his book, “Pleasers,” Dr. Kevin Leman affirms that, “When you start changing your behavior, your attitudes, emotions, and feelings will change as well.” He suggests, “Ask yourself, How would the ‘old me’ react in this situation? How is the ‘new’ me going to react?”

Be clear on you really need in a relationship.
My friend Heidi once said, “The difference between the wrong man and the right man is like the difference between the darkest night and the brightest day.”

In order to make choices that lead to the love and intimacy you desire, it’s important to know the characteristics you want—and don’t want—in a man. What are your criteria for the things you look? Think about the kind of men you’ve picked in the past? What do you want now? What needs to change? Make a list of things you need in a relationship. For instance, you could list, “I need:

• to have a better idea of what I need in another person
• to learn to assess more quickly if a man is right for me or not
• to be clear with myself and the other person what behaviors I will and will not accept
• someone who is consistent in his words and actions
• to make time for a quality relationship; to feel more connected
• a man who will pursue me, be available, and treat me with respect.”

The five C’s for finding Mr. Right

There are many essential traits to look for in a date, and eventually a life partner. I have five listed here, the five C’s: Christian, Communication, Character, Chemistry, and Calling.

Christian means that he has a committed walk with God, he’s accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord, and he’s on a path of growth and discovery. What else does that mean for you? Do you want someone who will attend church with you every Sunday? Do you want to pray together as a couple? Think about how you want to live out your spiritual life with another person.

Communication is key to any good relationship. It’s talking and listening, building rapport and intimacy, sharing, and more. What kind of communication important to you in a relationship? Are you comfortable going deep in conversation, or do you prefer to stay in the shallow end? What is “good communication” to you?

I remember a dreadful date with a man who did not talk to me almost the entire time we were together. Ron was a man from church with whom I’d spoken a few times. We had mutual friends and saw each other at singles events. One Sunday afternoon we drove to Green Bay for a Packers football game and he was completely silent throughout the entire game—including halftime! Even the long, soundless drive home was awful. I told myself that day that I needed a man who would not only talk with me but be a good communicator.

Character refers to his temperament, personality and moral fiber. Does he have integrity? Does his keep his promises, say what he means and mean what he says? How do your personalities mesh? Do you have temperaments that are complementary?

Chemistry is another word for attraction. Is he handsome in your eyes? Does he have qualities that appeal to you? Is there that intangible “certain something” that makes you click as a couple? Of course, chemistry and attraction are important in a relationship, but don’t let your feelings dictate your choices based only upon someone’s looks. True beauty is more than a perfect smile or fit body. It’s both inner and outer qualities, and how that person makes you feel. Additionally, chemistry is just one of the essential five C’s for a healthy and fulfilling match, one piece of the entire love puzzle.

Calling is the term I’ll use here for God’s vision for your relationship. Is it right for the long term? Has God called you to marriage with this man to be his life partner? You can have all four of the five C’s, but if the “C” of Calling is not there, it will never work.

A few years ago I met someone online and we seemed to be a very good match. We corresponded for months and emailed almost every day. I was excited when he suggested the idea of coming to Colorado over the holidays to meet. I was planning to take him downtown to see the New Year’s Eve ball drop, but what I got instead was a bomb dropped on me in the form of an email two days before he was supposed to fly here from another state. He wasn’t coming. In fact, he said he wasn’t ready for any relationship and he called the whole thing off. Just like that!

A few months later we talked, only once, and he told me he’d taken a job on the other side of the world. Then I came to realize that while Mr. Almost Perfect had four of the five C’s, he did not have the crucial fifth one: calling. God was not calling me to date or marry this man because He had a different life path for each of us.

In retrospect I could see that God was protecting me from hurt down the road since we never met in person. Of course, it still hurt to cut off all connection with someone I’d been bonding with for the past few months. But it became yet another opportunity to trust God for His best for me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting Over a Breakup, Making Better Choices Next Time

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8

Now that you are getting over Mr. Wonderful (or Mr. Wonder-Where-He-Went) you may want to think about how you will do things differently in your next relationship.

You can be ready for love again and make wiser and healthier choices by becoming a woman of: wisdom, high standards, realistic expectations, integrity, love, and faith. We'll talk about each healthier choice each day this week.

Become a woman of wisdom

Making better choices in relationships begins as you think about the kind of person you want to date and how you’ll date—the world’s way or God’s way.

In Western culture, dating is often recreational and include levels of emotional and physical intimacy (like having sex before marriage) that are contrary to Christian beliefs.

While the word “dating” does not appear in the Bible, it does say that a Christ-follower is to marry a believer. 2 Corinthians 4:16 reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God’s word does not have an Intro to Dating 101 section, however we know that He desires people to treat each other with honesty, respect and honor. Honoring another person following biblical principles means being more other-centered than self-centered, and intimacy after commitment (the commitment of marriage).

It seems wise to get to know someone first to see if you are compatible before you connect in a dating relationship. Spend time with your friends, his friends or your singles group instead of instant one-on-one time. That way you can prevent heartbreak for both parties if either of you discover you the other person is not for you after all.

We can look at the commands living a holy life and apply them to all our relationships, including dating and marriage. The book of Ephesians lists a few: Be completely humble, be patient, bear with one another (4:2); speak truthfully (4:25); in your anger do not sin (4:26); build up others with your words (4:29); get rid of bitterness (4:31); be kind and compassionate, forgive each other (4:32); and live a life of love (5:2).

Just as natural light dispels the darkness; the light of God’s word reveals truth. Step by step, moment by moment and choice by choice, your heart is illuminated with understanding and “aha!” moments; you finally get it and begin to change how you see yourself, God, and His role in your love life.

Wisdom is essential making changes. Without it we do really dumb things that hurt others or ourselves. Wisdom protects, leads, guides, and gives knowledge and understanding. Wisdom gives us victory!

As you follow the path of wisdom something wonderful happens. You grow up
on the inside. When hard things happen, like a breakup, it can cause us to wise up and become more emotionally and spiritually mature. What does that kind of person look like?

A mature person loves, accepts and respects herself. She learns to put rejection and loss in perspective, and trust the bigger picture of God’s guiding hand. She deals with issues as they come up and doesn't let them accumulate. Garbage needs to be taken out regularly, and emotional garbage needs to be processed and dumped frequently, too. She doesn't hold on to the past but clings tightly to the Savior who is her future and her hope.

A mature person lives in the reality of present, not the fantasy of the past or the future. She doesn’t obsess over a guy who’s dumped her for far too long or imagine herself in a white dress and veil with someone who is clearly not pursing her. A mature person trusts that God really does know best. And she lives what she believes. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Know it, do it, change your life.

When you live in the light of God’s truth, you begin to feel stronger and more confident, and you become more equipped to make healthier relationship choices.

What keeps women from making better choices in the men they choose and how they act when they’re with them? Selfishness. Rebellion. Ignorance. Apathy. Many things.

But it’s also important to know that as much as you want to get it right, the evil one wants you to get it wrong. The Christian life is a constant struggle between good and evil, truth and lies. Your enemy wants you to fail. In fact, he is like a thief who only wants to “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10). He wants to steal your joy, kill your dreams and destroy your relationships. But take heart, Jesus came so that you “may have life, and have it to the full.”(same verse).

The enemy lies to you when you hear that you’re not enough (not pretty enough, thin enough or good enough to find a man). He lies when you feel like you’ll never find someone special, that you’ll be alone forever, that no one really cares, or that you will never change. Not true. Don’t buy into the evil one’s lies. He’s been doing it since the Garden of Eden. He deceived Eve and he will try to deceive you.

When you know the truth and stand you can combat the enemy’s lies and find victory in your love life and your entire life.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Brighter Days Ahead

I'll tell you how the sun rose
a ribbon at a time.

~Emily Dickinson

Isn’t it good to know that day always follows night? That winter’s icy blasts always give way to the freshness of spring? Joy comes after sorrow. You’ve come a long way on your heart healing journey from breaking up to brighter days ahead.

In the darkness you were releasing—grieving losses, healing emotional pain, and discovering the power of forgiveness as you learned to experience God’s love in deeper ways.

In the dawn you were renewing—learning to wait well, awakening hope and restoring your confidence and self esteem, knowing that you really are worth being loved well.

Now it is day, and you are rebuilding—waking up to the rest of your life, finding purpose and vision, and learning to make healthier choices in relationships next time.

Healing is coming and bit by bit, you’re not so affected by the breakup anymore. Even the shape of your life is changing. The physician-poet Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind, once expanded to the dimension s of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” I believe the same is true of love. The heart, once expanded to encompass the breadth of love, is never the same again.

You have changed. And, like re-growth comes after a forest fire, restoration comes after a breakup too. Ruin can be restored. Your past will always be a part of who you are; history happened. But as you walk forward by faith, you discover new companions, like inner strength and unexpected joy. Hope arises. Things start to get better.

Surprisingly, the human heart is quite flexible and resilient; it has the ability to bounce back from difficulties. But you’re really not bouncing “back,” you’re bouncing forward—from darkness to light, deadness to life, brokenness to greater wholeness, fear to courage, and so much more.

God is all about transformation. “I will guide you,” He says Isaiah 42:16, “I will turn darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth.”

It’s time to live in the light.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 90:14

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

After a Breakup: Why Deal With Emotions?

Dealing with emotions is essential to your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. But many people don’t always want to face how they’re feeling. Here are a few reasons why:

You don’t think it matters.

You’re confused by how you’re feeling and don’t know how to handle it.

You know what to do, but you don’t want to go there.

You fear what others will think.

Or, you may feel like you will look weak or stupid, even to yourself.

Yet there is immense value in dealing with your stuff. While your relationship may be over, your life isn’t. It’s time to get some life back into your life!

In fact, identifying, expressing and releasing emotions are essential because the emotion itself isn’t that important. It’s what you do with it that matters. Left untreated or unexpressed, emotional pain can wreak havoc in your love life. You may sabotage a perfectly food relationship because of your own commitment fears. Or, you may withhold affection and trust because others have wounded you deeply.

The good news is you can get rid of emotional pain. In time, night will give way to day, and then a brand new day—your new beginning!

Identifying emotions
Tracy had been walking in a cloud of depression for weeks. Even the daylight felt dim to her. After her breakup with Daniel she felt like she was in a fog of sadness. But what she didn’t know was that hidden beneath her melancholy mood was a boatload of anger.

When she finally talked with a Christian counselor she learned that instead of expressing her anger, Tracy was turning it inward toward herself and it was leading to her depression.

As a child, Tracy had observed other family members getting extremely out of control with their tempers—it was actually rage, but she didn’t know that then. So she decided she would never get angry; she didn’t want to be like them. So she stuffed it all inside and thought she was doing the right thing.

Once she identified the emotion of anger, and learned that there was a range of emotions (like the range from a mere annoyance to anger to full blown rage) Tracy could acknowledge that emotion and learn to express it in healthy ways.

A social worker friend of mine uses tools like pictures or photographs of people that display various emotions to help clients identify and then work through their feelings.

Journaling can also be helpful. As you write about what’s happening in your life because of the breakup, certain themes may emerge. Even if they don’t, you can get closer to acknowledging how you feel and what could be causing you to feel that way by writing in a notebook or journal: “I feel __ when ___ happens.” For example, I feel hurt when he lies to me. I feel deceived because she went out with him behind my back.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Isaiah 50:10

When life is hard and we don't understand, it's helpful to remember the story of Job--and see what we can learn from his life.

Remember him? They man in the Bible who lost practically everything.

Job had some very dark days. He became overwhelmingly sad and began to give up entirely. Hope had faded. He complained about his circumstances and thought that he would never be happy again. It simply made no sense to Job why his entire life had crumbled around him.

Perhaps your breakup wasn’t as bad as Job’s horrible life. But whether your were simply disappointed or downright devastated you may also be wrestling with your own ideas about God’s character.

You may not be able to perceive what God is doing in your life right now, but perhaps, like Job, your question of “why?” will turn to “Who?” as you draw nearer to the One who has the answers. As you come to know God more and trust Him, you realize the one who takes care of the vast universe and all that is in it, also has His hands—and heart—on you.

In the darkest time of Job’s life he learned to see with new eyes as he experienced God, beholding him and coming to a place of radical life transformation.

“So often our primary ambition is to escape pain or feel good or be delivered from a problem when instead we need to keep our focus on the big picture of what God is doing in our life and the lives of others through pain or problems,” said Anne Graham Lotz in Why? “Our principle aim,” she continues, “should be to glorify God, not to be honored or to be healthy or to be happy.”

Of course, being happy or healthy is not a bad thing; it’s just not a first thing. Often we do not understand what God is up to because, well, He is God. And we are not.

There will always be an element of mystery in why God does what He does; we will never have all the answers this side of heaven. But we can rest assured that the One who loves us most, will reveal all that we need to know when we need to know it. And that is enough.

Many times, during or after a goodbye with a guy, I’ve grappled with my own “why?’ questions. We could have been really good together God, why didn’t this work out? And over time and many tears later, I’ve come to a place where I could say to God, “I do not understand, but I will trust You.”
When all else is gone, God remains.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Calm Your Heart; Return to Joy

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:11

Life is messy. We get hurt--or we hurt others. Breakups happen, people disappoint us. Or annoy us. Things don't go as planned. Why, it seems, is there never enough time to do what we need to get done.

But there is hope. The mess of the rain and mud in springtime lead into the beauty and bounty of summer. Fresh, green leaves. Pungent lilacs. Blooming fruit trees and gardens. All that mess led to something better.

This too shall pass. Your day will come. I believe it. Will you!

May God give you HOPE today, perhaps more hope than you've had in a long time--that one day things will change. That they will get better.

May the hard times you're facing lead to infinitely better days ahead!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When Love Ends: Dealing with a Dating Breakup or Divorce

Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.
Micah 7:8

Breakups are hard. Whether you’re trying to get over someone who left or you’re the one leaving, breakups are messy, complicated and often devastatingly difficult.

That’s because we’re designed for attachment and connection, not separation and disconnection. Yet, for many singles, our dating lives are a series of hello’s and goodbye’s—attaching and detaching—from our teenage years until we stand at the altar (or don’t). We date and breakup, date and breakup in a crazy-making cycle. Often, people who marry and divorce find themselves back in the same pattern, too.

Whether you dated briefly or for a long time, the loss of love can be shattering. Your mind swirls with questions: What did I do wrong? Why did he leave? Aren’t I worth being loved well? What if I never find anyone like him again? What if I never find anyone again?

One day you’re sad, the next day you’re angry, and suddenly you’re just numb; you don’t feel anything because it just hurts too much to feel. Maybe you feel rejected, betrayed, or broken-hearted. If you’re the one who left him, you may be suffering guilt and shame. Either way, you just want the pain to stop. You want healing and you want answers.

Is it possible to get through this fragmenting process without falling to pieces?

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

Every story has a beginning and an end. This book begins with an ending, the “heart sunset” of your fading relationship, and it ends with a fresh start in the land of new beginnings.

When Love Ends is an integral part of your healing journey. In this four-part book, you’ll follow the cycle of a day, from darkness to light, as an analogy that parallels the healing process.

Twilight is a time of endings. The sun and the relationship are both disappearing, and you learn that, sadly, loss and brokenness are a part of life. Yet how you deal with endings, how you handle the emotional fallout of your breakup, in healthy or unhealthy ways, will determine the quality of your future love relationships—and your life.

is the darkness of grieving your losses. You’ve lost love, friendship, physical touch, and the hope of being with this person forever. You seem to have misplaced your worth and value, and your self esteem (and maybe some self respect) are hiding. Thankfully, God provides “night lights” in the darkness, like His comfort, wisdom and love, to guide the way to the daylight of joy and new beginnings.

As the first fingers of morning inch across the horizon, hope awakens and the light of Dawn (the truth about who God is and who you really are) illuminates your thinking. You begin to see God’s character and learn how he redeems losses and restores brokenness. As you discover your true identity as a dearly loved child of God, you gain greater confidence and learn to make wiser choices in love.

Finally Day breaks and you find that letting go of the past is truly possible. It’s time to move forward into your future. As the sun’s rays shine into the dark corners of your life, you reawaken to important things you’ve forgotten or put aside, like: gratitude, serving others, building friendships and community, and maybe even living your dreams. With renewed vision, you are no longer hiding in the shadows of yesterday. Radiance has returned, and with the light of Christ in you, you are ready to be a light to the world.

If you’ve just broken up from a dating relationship, or are still in the process, When Love Ends is an excellent resource. It provides encouragement and hope along with biblical insight and practical help to get you out of the darkness and back into the light of a brighter future.

Your new day will come. Believe it!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

happy thoughts for a summer day

It's Saturday and it's summer. Okay, almost summer. In three more days the we'll flip the calendar and it will be official. But today it's warm and sunny.

Don't you wish it was summer-like in your heart every day? Instead of clouds, perfectly blue sky. No pain, no tears. Instead of fog, always clear. You always knew just what direction to take and exactly what to do!

If only.

But even though the weather changes--outdoors and in our hearts--we can still CHOOSE joy. We can still take steps toward feeling better and living better even when life is hard.

There will always be disappointments and trials in life...confusing days and broken times. Love can hurt and life is messy. We can cry and be sad. There is a place for that. But then, after grieving, we can press on--trusting God--and choose what we will do next.

As for me, I want to choose kind...lend a helping hand...listen to heard...celebrate! at peace.

Today I will trust God. And make better choices.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How to Deal with Anger – Especially After a Breakup

Samantha was mad. As she drove home after a long talk with Jesse, her boyfriend of three years, she replayed over and over in her mind what he’d said only moments before.

It had been a relaxing Saturday afternoon and the couple was hanging out at Jesse’s house. Samantha casually asked him if he could ever see them marrying each other. Jesse paused, looked up at her and said, “I don’t know. I feel like I don’t really know you.”

He doesn’t know me—after three years?

Samantha was shocked, hurt, and angry. Yet despite her feelings she calmly tried to talk with Jesse about it, but he didn’t want to engage in conversation so Samantha left. But then, Samantha was always the one who wanted to connect and Jesse didn’t.

She couldn’t count the number of times he’d shut down and say nothing when the topic got too deep for him. He didn’t want to share his feelings and, it appeared, he didn’t want to share his life with her either. Samantha and Jesse broke up shortly after that revealing conversation.

She had good reason to be angry. She wanted more conversationally and emotionally from Jesse and he wasn’t willing to give it to her. Added to that was the fact that they’d been together for three years. Samantha had invested her heart with this man and got a zero percent return.

We all get angry once in a while and that’s normal. But when we ignore it, hide it, or express anger in out of control ways to destructive extremes then it’s a problem.

Someone once told me that feelings are “indicators,” but God’s truth leads. You may feel angry, but don’t give in to rage, hostility, violence, cruelty, or physical or verbal abuse. Ephesians 4:26, 27 reads, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Jesus Christ displayed a range of emotions during his thirty-three years on Earth. He was passionate about justice, even if it meant a display of righteous anger when he overturned the tables of the money changers when they turned the temple area, a sacred place, into a selling floor for animals. (John 2:13-17)

Here are some practical things you can do to manage your anger wisely:

For instance, you can write an anger letter expressing to God about what happened during your breakup and/or since then, and how you feel about it. It can even include things that happened during the time you dated, if needed. Pour out your heart—what you’re mad about and why.

Or, you could write a different kind of anger letter. This exercise helps you to get the release you need, but you never ever mail the letter. Picture the person who broke up with you sitting across the table from you as you write. If you could say anything you wanted to him or her right now, what would you say? If you could say anything to them in a Christ-like way, what would you say? It’s up to you how much to include.

The purpose of the letter it to get the emotion out of you and release it. No one else will ever see what you write and you can feel safe to express yourself, vent, and be free of the tangled emotions inside of you. When you’re done, you can choose to burn or shred it if you’d like, but never (never!) mail it.

Write an anger action plan. In the midst of a heated conversation, sometimes you may need to leave so you (or the other person) can cool off and address your issues later. When you need to think through why you’re irritated, this can be helpful. Make a list of what happened, if you need to respond (you may not), how it makes you feel, and some potential ways you can respond. Then, after you’ve reviewed your options you can choose what to do. It will be helpful to pray before you begin. For example:

• What happened? Tony constantly cuts me off before I can finish a sentence.

• Do I need to respond? Yes, I feel like I need to stand up for myself.

• How does this make me feel? I feel angry when Tony doesn’t let me finish what I’m saying. I feel like what he has to say is more important than what I want to say. I feel diminished and unimportant.

• Options to responding: When Tony cuts in when I’m talking, I could say, “Could I please finish my sentence?” or “I wasn’t done yet.” Or, I could spend less time with Tony. Or. . .?

There are other ways to manage your anger too. Some people find it helpful to get punch pillows, talk to a trusted friend, pull out the Bible and read, journal their thoughts, go workout, or get outside for a long walk or bike ride. A good hearty laugh or getting some humor into your life can advance your heart toward joy again.

Find activities that relieve stress for you. And one day, things will be better. If you let them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The 10 Best Decisions a Single Can Make: Embracing All God Has for You

Bill and Pam Farrel, the authors who brought us Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti released a new book for singles this year, The 10 Best Decisions a Single Can Make: Embracing All God Has for You (Harvest House Publishers).

Instead of a “life on hold” this married couple offers 10 ways to wake up to the significance of your life and improve your relationships. Here are the chapters:

1) Decide to Be Decisive
2) Decide to Walk with Jesus
3) Decide to Celebrate
4) Decide to Live in Peace
5) Decide to Wait
6) Decide to Define Relationships
7) Decide to Live the Good Life
8) Decide to Be an Influencer
9) Decide to Be a Communicator
10) Decide to Be a Competitor

Check it out!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Peace and rest when you're tired and stressed

When you're tired or stressed, take time for peace and rest. Seriously.

Whether it's physical tiredness or an emotional marathon that's depleted you. Value rest. Take it. And feel the replenishing power of a well-rested body and soul come back to life again.

Rest isn't just laying on the couch or a comfy hammock, although it can be. Rest is ceasing from work...laying aside for a time that which you MUST, and in it's place choosing what you need.

What does rest to you? How do you get replenished?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confidence Restored by Truth

One thing that causes lack of confidence after a breakup is a distorted perception of yourself. Sometimes, how you see yourself is fuzzy and imprecise, and often untrue.

You may think you are not enough, or you don't measure up. But maybe you need a new set of lenses from which to view your circumstances.

When I was in eighth grade I got my first pair of eyeglasses. I remember the first time I looked out the window and noticed how clearly I could distinguish each individual leaf on the trees. With the clarity the glasses provided, blurry green blobs on a stick transformed into majestic maple and oak trees.

Who'd have known?

Sometimes we don’t see ourselves clearly either. The lenses through which we’ve been viewing our lives have been distorted by the constant criticism of a parent, the degrading comments from a co-worker or by the downright mean way someone has treated you.

Jud Wilhite said, “Distorted images are not only shaping your perspective but are also hindering your possibilities.”

In Eyes Wide Open, he explains, “If you see yourself as insignificant long enough, you’ll start to act accordingly. If you see yourself as ugly or worthless, it will affect how you relate to your family and friends, your God and your world. Rather than grow and change as you could, you’ll be tempted to give in or give up or stay in a holding pattern of self-destructive behavior. Rather than make your own unique contribution in the world, you may pull back and settle for mediocrity. But this is not the real you.”

We need God’s better-than-20/20-vision to gain a clearer vision of who we really are, to come out of hiding, to be courageous, and to see ourselves as He sees us. “The real you emerges as you see differently, biblically. You see yourself in light of who God says you are in His written Word,” said Wilhite.

Plant seeds of truth and as they grow, you will be better able to take hold of your true identity—what God says about who you are.

Rooted in God’s love, you can stand firm when you feel like your self worth is being washed away by the strong winds of someone else’s unkindness or how your hair turned out that day.

When your roots go deep into the source of life, the water of God’s word you stay fresh and growing. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

Walk away from the mirror, and what other people say. It’s time to find your true worth and value in the truth.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother’s Day and the Single Woman

So today is Mother’s Day. I have never been married, but how would the man in the Info Booth at church know that when he smiled and said, “Happy Mother’s Day” to me as I walked by.

Really? You think I’m a mother.

I suppose he was just being friendly, but it gave me pause to think. While my friends have been getting married and having babies, I’ve been “birthing” books. I’ve never known the joy of holding a newborn infant of my own in my arms, but I have known the thrill of opening the box of books from my publisher when my first book came out in 2007.

Power Prayers for Women (Barbour Publishing) is my firstborn. She’s grown and out of the house now. Oh, she’s doing great! In fact, more than 200,000 readers worldwide are finding help, hope and healing through the power of prayers.

My second was delivered in 2010, a helpful book on getting over a relationship breakup called, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty (Moody Publishers). She’s in that transition time of moving from infant to toddler. I pray for her as she grows. She has so much potential to transform lives!

And, I’m due October 1 with my third. Yep, it’s another book on prayer but this time on hope for hard times. Everyone has challenges and difficulties in life, and there are stories to tell, and prayers to be written. Pray that all goes well in the gestation and delivery.

I think of the hope and hardships of my close friends who’ve delivered babies, and known the sorrow of babies that never came to full term. My friend Nicole had a pre-mature baby last fall, born at 1 lb, 2 oz. So tiny! And today she is nearing 10 lbs. She is still on oxygen but we’re hopeful that will soon cease. The other baby, a twin, did not make it. She was named, buried and remembered.

Being a mother is not without heartache.

My friend Laura, now a mother of eight-year-old twins suffered the loss of her baby in the womb at eight months, almost to delivery.

Tammy was told she had a very slim chance of ever getting pregnant and today she has the cutest three-year old ever (I can say that since she in my godchild) Now she is pregnant again—and adopting internationally.

Everyone has a story…yours may or may not include motherhood with actual children. Maybe you are a “mother” in other ways. Maybe you have other callings.

Either way, God sees. He knows. And He cares about your place in life.

You still belong.

And you are still well loved.

On that, you can rely.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

After a Breakup: Restoring Confidence and Self Esteem

Some people don’t know how to get into a relationship, while others don’t know how to get out of one-—how to detach and move forward.

In relationships, learning to bond and to separate are essential skills. As you get to know another person you share more about yourself and you develop deeper levels of closeness. You connect.

Henry Cloud says that bonding is one of our most basic and foundational needs. He affirms that we are relational at our very core and God created us with a hunger for connection and relationships.

“Bonding is the ability to establish an emotional attachment to another person,” says Cloud. “It’s the ability to relate to another on the deepest level.” When we feel more connected to others, whether it’s a romantic or other kind of relationship, we are happier and healthier.

The other side of the coin is learning how to separate and keep your sense of self intact in the process, whether you are in a relationship or not. “Separateness is an important aspect of our human identity,” says Henry Cloud. “We are to be connected to others without losing our own identity and individuality…to master the art of ‘being me without losing you.’”

When you retain your sense of self and the man keeps his identity intact, you will be a better couple. In essence, when each person’s sense of “me” is solid, there is a better “we.”

For instance, think of two circles side by side—one is yellow (representing you) and the other is blue (representing the man). When a couple first meets, the circles touch on the outer limit; their lives have not yet intersected. Then as they get to know each other, the overlapping part that represents them as a couple becomes increasingly green (because yellow and blue make green).

If they marry and become one, the two circles mesh to form one circle that is entirely green. The point is, each person must retain his or her sense of self in order for a healthy couple to exist; he must keep his blue-ness she must retain her yellow-ness otherwise green won’t happen.

Don’t let your pain or your past define you. It is a part of who you are, but it’s not the entirety of what makes you the unique individual you are. Who you once were, or who you are now can be transformed as your identity comes from your security in Christ.

When your identity is rooted in the soil of God’s truth, your confidence grows.

So when you run into the guy who dumped you, or the girl he is with now, it won’t shatter your self esteem. Sure, it may shake you up a bit at first, but you bend; you don’t break.

As you learn to accept your strengths and your weaknesses, you build confidence that you are worth being loved well.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fresh Hope Delivered Daily

I love the word, “hope.” It’s so full of joy—as in longings fulfilled and good things.

But having hope—no matter what your circumstances—takes courage. And it takes faith.

It begins with a single step, from where you are right now to and exciting new path. Whether you begin hesitantly or with a let’s-have-an-adventure excitement, the important thing is that you begin—and keep choosing hope.

Seek the Lord and listen for his guidance. And He will lead you. By taking one step, and then another and another, you leave the old place of brokenness and rubble, fraught with complication and unanswered questions.

Even when the future is unclear and it feels like a primordial haze hangs over your heart, walk on. Because like the early morning low cloudiness in San Francisco, eventually the fog will lift and clarity will come. Your blue sky days of joy will return.

Be assured, though, that walking with hope is not like being in a Disney cartoon where bluebirds carrying colorful ribbons lead the way and happy chipmunks wave as you skip down the lane and daisies bloom instantly at your feet.

Not so much.

As you walk down Hope Road, you may have obstacles or roadblocks ahead. You may not be able to see the way ahead or you may feel lost. But keep on walking, and in time things will begin to change.

True hope believes that God will give good things. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11, emphasis mine)

Every morning the sun rises; every day the Lord delivers fresh hope. Despite life’s discouragement and difficulties, you can look back at all God has done in the past in other areas of your life—how He’s kept His promises and has been faithful to keep his word—and you can look forward with hope for good things to come in the future.

Hope is confident expectation that you will receive what you hope for, that a desire will come to pass. Like if you planted dahlia seeds in your garden, you would hope that brightly colored flowers would one spring up. As you covered the seeds with dark brown soil, you’d be confident that, in time, there’d be growth even though you do not yet see results.

Romans 8:24, 25 says, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

You may have just lost your job, or relationship, or spouse. You may only have a few dollars to your name, or have an illness you just can’t seem to beat. Maybe your kids are making unwise choices, or you have a huge decision to make and you don’t know what to do. Whatever you’re going through…

Hope on…and see the goodness of the Lord. It just may surprise you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Love, Life and the Larger Story

If your life were a story in a book or movie, what would it be? A comedy? Drama? Mystery?

Eugene Peterson once said, "We live in a narrative, we live in story...We have a beginning and an end. We have a plot, we have characters."

In his classic work, The Sacred Romance, John Eldredge talks about God as the Hero in the Larger Story of life:

"It is only when we see God as the Hero of the larger story that we come to know that his heart is good."

Do you believe God is GOOD? That He is pursuing you, that He loves you more than you will ever know?

Your story, your life has a purpose. Whether it's been a "good read" or something you'd like to edit and change, it's been--up until now--the story you've had. Your past.

But that doesn't mean the future can't be different.

There is more to this life, and more to your story. It's just not been written yet. Life is a path that unfolds before you. We take right and left turns. Often we hesitate and do nothing. But, with a phone call or an "aha moment" or one single choice...

Life changes.

As you put your hope in God--the Author and the Hero in the story of your life--ask Him to lead, guide, and unfold his BEST for you. Trust that all things really do work together for the good--whether or not you can see the end result from here.

At times, it may feel like "The End"; it's over. It's too late. But maybe it's merely a new chapter in life...or a new volume. A new beginning.

Perhaps it's time for some changes, good and worthy and right. You never know what is just around the corner.

The best is yet to come--in your story and mine.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Freedom from Fear and Finding Peace After a Breakup

The end of a relationship can put a lot of ideas into a your head. What if I’m making a mistake? What if no one ever loves me again? What if I’m too old, too fat, too thin, too boring, or too whatever? What if I never get married and have kids?

What if. . .?

Rejection and the resulting fear can often be crippling. It can hold you back from moving forward and taking risks in the future.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While some fears are founded, others are irrational and will never come to pass. And it’s important to know the difference.

You may have heard the saying “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Sometimes we need to push past how we feel in order to do the right thing, or get where we need to be in life.

When Jesus walked the earth, one of the disciples named Peter did a very courageous thing when he decided to trust God and defy gravity by walking on water. In John 14:22-33 you can read the account of Peter and other disciples who were in a boat some distance from the shore when they saw Jesus walking on the lake. They thought it was a ghost and they were terrified.

It wasn’t a ghost. It was the One who loved them most.

Jesus told them not to be afraid, and Peter replied to Jesus saying, "Tell me to come to you on the water." Pretty daring, I’d say.

And Jesus said, "Come."

Interestingly, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around he saw the wind, he became afraid, and began to sink into the lake.


But as Peter he began to descend into the dark waters he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand to Peter and lifted him up. Whew! A good lesson for us too: Eyes on Jesus we stand strong, eyes on the storm—we sink!

The Lord wants you to be free from fear, worry, and obsessive reasoning. He wants you to trust Him. When you do the rewards are great. Instead of fear, doubt, and panic, there is freedom, peace, joy.

Be at peace. The One who loves you most will take care of you.

Here are some Bible verses to reflect on –words of life and peace—to help you conquer your fears:

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:11

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What to Look for in a Date or Mate

How do you know what to look for in someone to date or marry? What makes a relationship strong and lasting?

Check out today's post on the new Moody Publishing website, Start Marriage Right and you can be entered to win a movie/popcorn gift package.

Simply leave a reply and comment on the article at the link below TODAY, April 12:

Deciding whom you will marry is one of the most important decisions of your life. Choose wisely.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When Life is Hard: Overcoming Obstacles to Hope

Sometimes life can feel like a never-ending path of roadblocks. You can’t seem to get what you want or go where you need to go. Things seem thwarted. And you’re oh so tired of waiting…always waiting for something good to happen.

Don’t give up. And don’t let anyone steal your Hope! Because just like the pretty purple crocus' pop their head through the ground after a cold, hard winter, your life can bloom with new beauty and joy.

Yep, your life!

When nothing seems to be happening…
when you are tired of trying to make things work out on your own…
when you cannot see the way, hold on to hope.

The cadence of Christ is often unlike your own pace, but God is still at work in your life. “Hope has its own rhythm,” said Larry Crabb in Shattered Dreams, “We cannot rush it. The water of life will find its way down the mountain to fill the lake from which we can drink.”

If hope is asleep in your life, how does it awaken?

Hope awakens because God arises. Despite the difficulties, you have the strength to wake up and walk on because God arises first. He lifts you up; He helps you to soar above your adversity. Psalm 68:1 says, “May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.”

At first you may think, “I don’t have any enemies.” And then it dawns on you that you do have opponents on the road to hope and healing.

In addition to the evil one, our main adversary, difficulties like worry, fear, doubt, rejection, obsession, anxiety are “enemies” as well. They can come at you with the force of an opposing army. But that's not the end of the story.

Hope awakens from unconditional love. The total and absolute love of God and the love of supportive family and friends can change us from the inside out. On this path of heart healing know that you are loved, cared for. You are never alone.

Hope awakens from God’s Word. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). What a blessing to have words of hope in our own language, words that will heal your pain-weary heart.

Hope awakens to God’s sovereignty. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that God directs and redirects. He is sovereign, He is in control. Even when it SEEMS chaos reigns.

Every morning the sun rises; every day the Lord delivers fresh hope. Despite the discouragement and difficulties, you can look back at all God has done in the past in other areas of your life—how He’s kept His promises and has been faithful to keep his word—and you can look forward with hope for good things to come in the future.

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Fresh hope delivered daily. Count on it!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Courage When You Need it Most


Have courage,
Have faith!
For God has a plan.
Don’t the sun, moon and stars
Heed the Master’s command?

His plan’s not to harm you,
But help you succeed,
To guide you and heal you
And give what you need.

Don’t worry, don’t doubt.
Just simply believe,
By the power of the Spirit
Who wants you to live.

Remember the good things
He’s done in the past,
For you and for others;
Let go of your grasp --
That things should turn out
The way you think they’ll be.
For His plans are much greater,
Though now you can’t see.

Yes, walking by faith
Is hard for the blind.
But He’ll lead you to good things
And in time you will find
That the King of the heavens
And Lord of the earth
Will give you the best things
When you put Him first.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Light in the Darkness: Finding Hope After a Relationship Breakup

Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8

Breakups are hard. Whether you’re trying to get over someone who left or you’re the one leaving, breakups are messy, complicated and often devastatingly difficult. That’s because we’re designed for attachment and connection, not separation and disconnection.

Yet, for many singles, our dating lives are a series of hello’s and goodbye’s—attaching and detaching—from our teenage years until we stand at the altar (or don’t). We date and breakup, date and breakup in a crazy-making cycle. Often, people who marry and divorce find themselves back in the same pattern, too.

Whether you dated briefly or for a long time, the loss of love can be shattering. Your mind swirls with questions: What did I do wrong? Why did he leave? Aren’t I worth being loved well? What if I never find anyone like him again? What if I never find anyone again?

One day you’re sad, the next day you’re angry, and suddenly you’re just numb; you don’t feel anything because it just hurts too much to feel. Maybe you feel rejected, betrayed, or broken-hearted. If you’re the one who left him, you may be suffering guilt and shame. Either way, you just want the pain to stop. You want healing and you want answers.

Is it possible to get through this fragmenting process without falling to pieces?

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

Every story has a beginning and an end, and often the healing process is like the cycle of a day.

Twilight is a time of endings. The sun and the relationship are both disappearing, and you learn that, sadly, loss and brokenness are a part of life. Yet how you deal with endings, how you handle the emotional fallout of your breakup, in healthy or unhealthy ways, will determine the quality of your future love relationships—and your life.

Night is the darkness of grieving your losses. You’ve lost love, friendship, physical touch, and the hope of being with this person forever. You seem to have misplaced your worth and value, and your self esteem (and maybe some self respect) are hiding. Thankfully, God provides “night lights” in the darkness, like His comfort, wisdom and love, to guide the way to the daylight of joy and new beginnings.

Dawn reveals the truth as God illuminates your thinking, just as the first fingers of morning inch across the horizon. Hope awakens with the light.

You begin to see God’s character and learn how he redeems losses and restores brokenness. As you discover your true identity as a dearly loved child of God, you gain greater confidence and learn to make wiser choices in love.

Finally Day breaks and you find that letting go of the past is truly possible. It’s time to move forward into your future. As the sun’s rays shine into the dark corners of your life, you reawaken to important things you’ve forgotten or put aside, like: gratitude, serving others, building friendships and community, and maybe even living your dreams.

With renewed vision, you are no longer hiding in the shadows of yesterday. Radiance has returned, and with the light of Christ in you, you are ready to be a light to the world.

Bottom line: When you deal with emotional wounds and let God heal them, you can be better equipped to find the healthy and lasting love you truly desire.

However, instead of dealing with the emotional rubble from a broken heart, a lot of us turn to our favorite comfort foods—like ice cream, potato chips, chocolate, creamy mashed potatoes, or fresh, hot bread lathered in butter—to try and fill the emptiness and soothe the sorrow. Others loose their appetite completely.

In the long run, comfort food in moderation isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s not going to heal your broken heart. It may seem to satisfy you for a time, but the void remains—the heart holes of loss, loneliness, rejection or regret. What are you going to do to get past the pain when the pint or plate of food is empty?

Do you need comfort and support to cope with your disappointment? Do you want to get unstuck and move forward with your life? If so, “When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty” (Moody Publishing) can help you to get through the pain and find life—and joy—again.

The hopeful truth is God heals brokenness; He redeems loss and pain and heals the heart to love again. He is all about restoration and transformation—from sadness to joy, from rejection to acceptance, and from brokenness to wholeness.

Indeed, The One who loves you most can help you reconnect again—to God, yourself, and others—and in the process to discover what real, healthy love looks like so you can make wiser choices next time.

You don’t have to be afraid of the dark, for you are not alone. Not ever. Even in the diffused light of dusk, when you can hardly see the way, God’s lantern of truth and His presence remain constant. He will be with you through the night and lead you to hope, healing and brighter days ahead.

You just have to follow the Light.