The Big Miracle That Happened in a Small Moment Today

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With light pressure on my gas pedal, I’d easily engaged all eight cylinders, quickly reaching the 45 mph speed limit on the straightaway near my house.  There was nothing but a green light ahead of me – until she decided to ignore her red light.  There absolutely wasn’t enough time to stop on the damp pavement.  I slammed on my brakes and tensed in anticipation of the collision into the passenger side of her sedan while my purse, laptop and lunch become airborne.  It is absolutely, scientifically impossible that my car stopped as far from her car as I found myself.  I was completely dumbfounded – no squealing tires, no metal crashing into metal, no shattering of plastic and glass.  Then, my angry horn broke the silence as I looked for a place to turn around and tell this stupid woman how pissed off I was with her crappy driving.  I mean, she could have really injured us both with her carelessness!

And then, I realized that it was absolutely, scientifically impossible that my car stopped as far from her car as I had found myself.  The only explanation for what happened to me was divine intervention.  I am a horrible driver and I know my car doesn’t stop that quickly, especially when I’d been accelerating not a second before slamming on my brakes on wet pavement.  It truly was surreal – all my belongings were flying through the air, but I wasn’t even jarred in my seat.  He reached down and stopped my car as a child would reach down and correct an out of control Hot Wheels car.  And it dawned on me that He probably didn’t save me from that crash just so I could give a complete stranger a piece of my mind.  So the question is, if God reached down and saved you from harm, what would you do to say thank you?  Here is the wakeup call: He has saved us all from so much!  We all have so many blessings in our lives that we take for granted each and every day.  Life may seem pretty rough some days, but if it were gone in an instant?

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A Horse is a Horse Unless of Course That Horse is an Angel in Horsehair

IMG_4645This beauty is named Abby.  She, along with about a dozen other hoofed ‘Angles in Horsehair’, are responsible for healing and providing hope for hundreds to North Carolinian kids each year.  Kids who have literally been discarded, kids who have endured the deepest, more horrific kind of abuse, kids who have suffered unimaginable loss, kids whose parents have divorced, kids who just need love and encouragement.

I would have loved to have had a place like this to run to and heal when, at 14 year old, cancer stole one of my closest childhood friends.  To deal with the pain, the anger, the guilt.  When you’re a child and something ugly comes into your life, it is really hard to cope.  Heck, some days I have a hard time coping with bad traffic!  In North Raleigh, there is a place where families can heal, where children can learn to trust, where horses can literally save someone from the deepest pit of utter despair.  And they need help to continue to minister to children and their families at no charge, to help put right what has gone so terribly wrong, to help create a world changer from one who is weighed down by the world.  Check out Hope Reigns of Raleigh to learn how you can help today.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me?

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Over the weekend, I spent time with a 14 year old girl who shared with me that nobody at her school likes her, no one in her small group at church likes her and her parents don’t really know her.  I don’t know about you, but this sounds just like I felt when I was 14: insecure, unsure, approval seeking.  I grew up in a one [flashing] stop light town, along with ~2,500 other souls.  Our town was smack dab in the middle of nowhere, Washington, about 3 hours from the closest city with a mall.  Everyone knew my story, my parents’ stories and the stories of my extended family.  If there was anything they didn’t know about me, they felt free to fill in the blanks with their very own opinions – sometimes kind, sometimes ugly.  When my parents bought my younger brother and I cars when we were 16 and 18 respectively, the mother of one of my best friends went around town telling other parents that I must be ‘bad news’ because my parents had bought a nicer car for my brother than for me.  The reality was that we’d both chosen the cars we’d been given and my dad had worked out a deal in that he would purchase several upgrades for my brother’s car, but that there wouldn’t be any argument when he took this more fuel efficient car on his monthly trips to dental meetings in Seattle.

In High School, I participated in volleyball, cheerleading, tennis, drama, Future Business Leaders of America, Future Homemakers of America, Student Government, choir, church youth group and was an exchange student to France during my Junior year.  If this were a movie or a YA novel, this list of activities would be used to demonstrate how athletic and talented I was.  But then, we get back to the fact that there were only 100 of us in my class and you realize that talented or not, we all got to participate as a reward for merely showing up in the correct uniform.  I was awarded Most Inspirational Player in Volleyball, which is the equivalent of ‘You Suck, but You Cheer Really Loud’; I was cheer captain, but couldn’t even do a cartwheel so I think this was more in recognition of my ability to organize events and make copies of our cheer books; I don’t think they even had a C-Squad in tennis until I showed up with my racquet.  Needless to say, you won’t hear my name memorialized in the hallways of my alma mater as the star of anything.  At graduation, I was surprised to be handed a gold cord to wear, symbolizing graduating with honors.  All those wearing these cords were lined in chairs by GPA – I was the last before the order was switched to alphabetical.  I remember the sting of feeling as though love was nothing but conditional: if you dressed and acted the right way, your school friends would accept you; if you were ‘good’ enough, your church friends would accept you; if your grades were high enough, your parents would accept you.  The problem with trying to measure your worth as compared to others is that there will always be someone who you think is ‘better’ than you in one of the categories you’ve decided to track.  Other girls might be skinnier or funnier or more athletic or better at math.

Not knowing what I wanted to so with my life when I grew up, and feeling enormous pressure to have my life figured out before leaving High School, I enlisted in the Army and found myself crawling through mud at basic training as my friends entered their Freshmen years at various colleges across Washington.  Once again, I found myself very average.  I was not the fastest, nor the strongest.  While practicing throwing grenades into bunkers, my head was almost taken off by the drill sergeant who’d had to reroute the heavy sphere I’d managed to toss directly into the doorframe, bouncing it back at the line of young soldiers awaiting their turn to practice this obscure skill.

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering to help with an after school club at a local girl’s school where we tackle topics like value, worth and strength.  Finally, after all these years, I can articulate the battle my average self had struggled with: Self Worth.  We used a $50 bill to demonstrate to the girls that no matter how much you crumple, dirty or abuse the bill, it will still have the same worth.  And so do we girls.  We abuse ourselves by saying our thighs are too skinny or too fat, that we are too smart or not smart enough, that we are too loud or too shy.  Enough.  We were all uniquely made – there is no one on this planet who was created like you!  Who else on this planet has your same fingerprints – no one.  You same corneas – no one.  You are the only one on this planet who posses the unique set of experiences, gifts and skills all packed us as YOU.  And guess what, you are no more or less valuable than any other human being on this planet.  It’s time to stop being our own biggest bullies.

One of our club’s leaders, a middle school girl, had an excellent suggestion to write encouraging notes to other girls in their school who had not participated in our club.  How brilliant of an idea is that?  Can you think of anyone in your life who could use an encouraging note?  What if we’re all still 14: insecure, unsure, approval seeking?  What if one small gesture on your part could help another see their worth?  I challenge you to touch someone’s life today and let them know they are valued.

For me, I’ve learned that my worth can only come from God.  After all, anything else you could imagine putting your worth in can be destroyed, lost or can change value.  When you put your worth in an unchanging God, you find real worth that lasts forever.

“But the lord  said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Najim

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In 11 days, Najim will turn 8 and I can’t think of a better birthday present to offer him than HOPE.  Hope for a education, hope for full tummy, hope for health and hope for a future.  Najim is growing up in Bangladesh, one of the most disaster prone nations in the world.

Najim, his parents and 3 sisters live in a rural farming community on the southeast part of the country.  The typical home in Najim’s community is constructed of bamboo wall with a metal roof and dirt floors.  Community members survive on rice, fish and any vegetables they can afford.  Najim is in primary school and enjoys coloring and playing cricket.  A monthly gift of $35 will provide Najim and his community with improved healthcare and hygiene, school fees and new school buildings.  Your support will provide preschool, coaching and adult literacy classes.  New crop and animal production techniques will feed more families and improve their income.  Let’s make this the best birthday yet for Najim!  Comment on this post to sponsor Najim or click here to view other children in desperate need of your help today.

My Fair NLT – The Bible I Actually Understand

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As most people who’ve spent more than five minutes in a Christian bookstore can attest, there are a lot of choices when it comes to purchasing a Bible.  If you’ve known me for more than an hour, you’d probably find it pretty easy to believe that I was driven to choose the “right” one – the one that was more correct than any of the others.  [Insert chuckles here]  You know that somewhere in the virtual history of my laptop, there is a Google search titled: which version of the bible is the best?  After hours of research, I can report to you with absolute certainty that the infallible answer to this question is: it depends.  It turns out that the different versions are actually used for different purposes and have little to do with the pretty covers.  =)

From the limited research I conducted, I learned that the translations can be mapped on a continuum of word-for-word translation to thought-for-thought translation [See the examples below].  What I really wanted was to know God’s instructions for me and my family.  So I kinda didn’t care if the words were most closely translated from Greek, if it still sounded like Greek to me.  The New Living Translation (NLT) was originally published in 1996 with a goal of being as comprehensible as possible.  Ta Da!! While reading this version, the stories came to life in a way I’d not experienced before, scripture was easy to absorb and apply, plus it was an overall more enjoyable reading experience.

While reading, I still had several “huh?” moments.  I was thankful I’d selected a study Bible, specifically the Life Application Study Bible.  Finally, I felt like I had a better understanding of what it meant when . . . . I especially enjoyed the short biographies throughout.  On the downside, I found the footnotes to be repetitive from book to book.

But wait, there’s more!  I learned there is a huge secondary market for unused Bibles on Ebay.  I bought my brand new, leather bound, Life Application Study Bible for $35, instead of full retail price closer to $70.

If you’ve found the Bible difficult to read or understand, I HIGHLY recommend starting a reading plan today on Bible.com and trying multiple translations until you find one that speaks to you.  While over half of all Americans who read the Bible regularly, read the KJV, I love my NLT.  Which Bible version is the best?  That depends on you!

More Word-for-Word More Thought-for-Thought
NASB ESV KJV NIV NLT
Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
John 1:18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. The Testimony of John the Baptist
John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, i am!”
Rom. 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.

After Reviewing Your Resume, I Don’t Know You Well Enough to Interview You

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As a hiring manager, I’ve often joked that I should call all the candidates whose resumes were not selected for further interviews and tell them that  for $30, I would tell them why I had not interviewed them.  I know, I know.  I am a horrible person for even joking that way.  In all seriousness though, early in my career I honestly thought that hiring managers painstakingly poured over resumes in an effort to determine which candidates had the most promise from their past achievements and experiences.  Not true.  I want to know who can walk in the door and make the biggest impact the soonest – and fit in best with the team – all in less than 2 minutes of skimming a resume.  Below are my top recommendations on how to keep your resume out of the discard pile.  Spoiler Alert: They all point to the hiring manager being able to picture you in the role they need to fill.
1. I never got to know you.  Please do not make the grave mistake of only submitting your resume to an online job posting, along with hundreds of other people.  While this may have possibly worked for someone out there, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten a job using this tactic.  If you really want to work at a great company, you need to show them you are resourceful.  Recruiters attend hiring fairs because they want to meet great people – show up ready to impress and then continue to foster that relationship.  When you see an opening posted, reach back out to that recruiter with whom you’ve built a relationship and ask them to show your resume to the hiring manager.  If a face-to-face introduction isn’t an option, introduce yourself on LinkedIn.  Remember though, if you want a recruiter to actually read through your entire email, you have to have something engaging to say right off the bat such as, “Last year, I was proud to be among the top 10% of employees in my company to be recognized for stellar performance.”
2. I didn’t have time to hear you out.  Wordy much?  Not a good tactic for your resume and cover letter.  Perhaps you have some really great skills on page 3, but I only had 5 minutes between meetings to read your resume, take a bio break and get coffee.  I have no idea what came past the first half of page 2 when I tucked your perfectly formatted 4 page ledger of your life’s work in 10 point font into the discard file, confused about why you thought you’d be a good fit for this role.  Seriously, get to the point quickly.  Is there a compelling reason you think you are the best person for this job?  Tell me quickly and plainly; do not make me search for your relevant skills and experience – getting my attention quickly is key.  And here’s the real shocker – you don’t even need to have all the experience I listed as “necessary”.  You just need to be able to demonstrate to me how your past experience lines up with the job at hand.
3. You didn’t seem to know me.  Please, please, please –  only apply to one job at a time.  No, I do not mean that you should submit your resume to only one job and wait for the outcome of that application before applying for other roles.  I mean, you should make your application for this role specific to what you can bring to the table for this role – please do not spam me with your generic resume.  Are there many roles I would be qualified to do well, yes.  Should I submit the same resume for all these roles?  Only if I want my resume to end up in the discard pile.  I really don’t care about what you can do for my competitor – I care about what you can do for me.  Read what I’ve posted carefully and then craft your resume and cover letter in response to the specific position you are applying to.  Yes, I do know that this takes a lot of time and effort, but, aren’t you asking the recruiter and hiring manager to take time out of their day to read and respond to your resume?  If I don’t know what made you think you’d be a good fit for this role . . . next!
4. Your atrocious formatting made you look unprofessional.  I need you to produce work that is presentation ready.  If the formatting of your resume is sloppy or outdated, I’m not going to trust that I won’t need to reformat all your work.  My previous managers who had come out of public accounting taught me that if the presentation of a document is great, the reader will focus less on trying to find errors.  Subconsciously, we actually trust better formatted documents, so take care to make a good impression here.

5.  I have no idea what you just said.  Perhaps in the midst of all this industry jargon, you have really great skills, but I didn’t bring my secret decoder ring with me to work today so I’m going to pass on interviewing you.  When you have your resume proofread by several friends (before you ever apply for a position), make sure that at least one of them has absolutely no knowledge of your industry or role.  I know many recruiters who are professional recruiters – they have never held a position like the one you are applying for and thus won’t be able to translate your resume to tell the hiring manager about your experience if you make it impossible to decipher.

6. You left me wondering “so what”.  The three resumes I’m going to follow up on all told me their experience and how their actions impacted their organizations.  You told me you are experienced in forecasting, they told me they automated the forecasting process across 12 subsidiaries, thus improving the efficiency of the process and allowing management to make decisions with better, more timely data.  You told me you have experience working with customers – they told me they implemented a customer experience improvement process that allowed their organization to address critical areas that had been bringing down customer satisfaction, thus improving overall satisfaction by 10% over four months and increasing revenue 5% over 8 months.  If you can’t substantiate your experience in terms of the impact you’ve had on your organization, it will be hard for great companies to want you to join their ranks.  Look for opportunities to go above and beyond in each of your roles, then document the effect your extra efforts.  If you don’t have the opportunity to get this kind of experience in your current role, business resource groups within your organization or non-profits outside your organization may be able to benefit from an investment of your time and enemies, translating into a strong ROI for your resume.

A Review of “Gods and Kings” by Lynn Austin

Gods and Kings (Chronicles of the Kings, #1)Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve found the Old Testament to be difficult to unpackage, it’s characters not seeming like real people at all. This book helped me to see into the lives of two of Judah’s kings in a way I hadn’t been able to do on my own. I found this book both entertaining and instructive. I really helped bring the Bible to life for me in an unexpected way. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Losing 6 Dress Sizes in 5 “Easy” Steps

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I’ve always had very poor body image – it hasn’t seemed to matter if my jeans toted a size 2 or size 16 tag, I have always felt huge.  I realized I needed to give myself an attitude makeover or risk passing my short comings onto my two beautiful daughters.  I’d managed to pack on many pounds while on bed rest for the entire fall of 2009, pregnant with my first daughter.  I’d heard the myth that the pounds would magically fall off if you nursed your baby, but this absolutely did not happen for me.  By the time I had my second daughter, I was pushing 200 pounds. Keep in mind, when I take the “how big are your bones test”, I come you with: tiny.  I have these crazy boney Skeletor fingers and my thumb extends well beyond my index finger when circling my wrist.  Additionally, I am not quite average height, which my husband is only too happy to remind me means that I am “almost not short”.  200 pounds is huge on my frame – almost twice my healthy weight.

I started eating “better” with a goal of being “more healthy” – let’s face it, those ambiguous goals are great, aren’t they? You almost have to try not to achieve a goal like that!  I cut my wine consumption down to weekends only, I ate more whole foods and fewer sweets. This, along with naturally losing some of the baby weight after my daughter was born, left me about 50 pounds over my goal weight. Hmmm. Perhaps it was time to get real.

Step 1
I got real about my goals and set tangible, achievable short-term targets: My first goal was to get my BMI out of the “You are killing yourself with all your fatness” range.  I purchased a digital scale that to measure weight, fat %, water % and BMI.  Each time I achieved a short-term goal, I celebrated.  Yes, I actually celebrated when my BMI reached the “Obese” range.  Then I celebrated again when it reached “Overweight” and “Normal”.
Step 2
I got real about accountability.  I knew that working out had to happen if I was going to drop any dress sizes this century, so I made it worth my while to get up early and get to the gym.  First, I signed up with Gym Pact to exercise 5 days a week – or pay.  I originally had my pact set to charge me $5 per missed day, but I found it all to easy to part with $5 one (or more) days per week and ended up finding a penalty of $15 per missed day to be much more motivating in getting me out of bed in the morning.
Step 3
I got real about my food choices. It wasn’t as though I was eating horribly, but my portions were out of control, as was all the stuff I was heaping on top of my food.  I started tracking everything that went into my mouth every day WITH NO CHEATING.  Every last bite went into my My Net Diary app.  This activity taught me a lot about how many calories were in the healthy foods is confused with diet friendly food and it taught me a much healthier definition for a portion size. These are two skills you should probably learn if you have any hope of keeping the wight off.  Additionally, I do not think it is possible to consistently make nutritious choices that equal 1,200 each day.  Planning ahead with a menu of breakfast, am snack, lunch, pm snack and dinner will help you stay on track with foods that will fuel your body.
Step 4
I got real about my skill set. I was eating right, exercising 5-6 days per week and not seeing any results. Bummer. I didn’t have a clue what was causing me to plateau, so I enlisted the help of a personal trainer. She me set up routines to increase my workout effectiveness and keep me from getting stuck again. The biggest trick she taught me was to mix it up so that my body didn’t become too accustomed to an exercise – who wants to be ineffectual when they’ve gotten up 90 minutes before their normal alarm?!
Step 4
I got real about the math. Losing weight really is a simple math equation: the calories your body needs to run it’s basic functions + the sum of the calories you consume – the additional calories you burn. If that equation add to a number less than zero, you lose weight. I purchased a heart rate monitor and recorded an estimate of the calories I burned each day. It was shocking to me how few calories I could burn in 15 minutes, compared to the amount I could consume. Whenever I really wanted that treat, I would ask myself if I really wanted tomorrow’s workout to pay for today’s treat, or work off the hundreds of other treats that had landed me in a size 16.
Step 5
I got real about my endurance. One day out of every 3-4 weeks, I did not diet. I did not go crazy, knowing I’d spend the next week paying back the spree if I indulged too much, but I did relax and have a waffle. I did not, however, find an excuse to “cheat” very often. I knew I would be on this plan for 6-8 months and I did not want to prolong it any linger than necessary.
It actually wasn’t easy to lose six dress sizes over the course of six months, but I really love the feeling of being stronger and healthier and I feel good about passing that feeling on to my girls.