A few months ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Angie Baughman on her podcast Steady On. We chatted about all kinds of life stuff, especially what happens when we get to the middle-aged stage of life (defined by many as ages 40-65ish). I’m pretty sure I had a moment and totally forgot to post the link for y’all to listen to it, so here it is:
You can also find Steady On on most podcasting platforms.
Faith is important in every stage of life, but by midlife, we’ve been hit by some of the bigger storms of life, and our faith has taken a beating. Instead of drowning when the waves roll over us, we can learn to increase our faith.
Faith is a muscle; the more you use it, the bigger it gets.
I’ve finally figured out that I’m not alone in this stage of life—hallelujah!—and that we’re stronger when we’re together, so I’m creating a private group on Facebook just for women who are in this same, weird, hard stage of life called the middle. Please come join us!
Midlife Faith is a group for Christian women who are looking for encouragement and hope in the hard stuff of life – adult (ish) children, the (nearly) empty nest, aging parents, job transitions, divorce, church challenges, health issues, and more. Midlife Faith is for women who are in their 40s-50s (ish!) and wondering how to navigate this new stage in their lives. We’re all about pointing others to Jesus and speaking positively into each others’ lives. I’ll be sharing my weekly (ish) encouraging blog posts and other resources. This will be a PRIVATE group on *Facebook, so members can share comfortably.
Please invite your girlfriends who are in this same stage of life! While we are a Christian group and all about finding answers in the Bible, being a professing Christian is not a requirement for membership in the group.
*If you’re exiting Facebook in favor of other social media platforms, you can arrange your settings to open immediately to this group instead of your own page.
As we begin a new year, we often make goals or resolutions to improve our physical health—lose weight, exercise more, eat better, cook at home more, cut out sugar, etc. But we often forget about those goals before the end of the month. While there’s nothing wrong with improving our physical health and nothing wrong with making goals or resolutions, perhaps we’d be better served by focusing on the state of our souls.
It’s all too easy to hide the state of our souls behind the state of our physical bodies. Many overly health-conscious people hide the imperfections of their souls behind the perfection of their physical bodies. We obsess over counting points and steps while neglecting our daily devotions. (Just me? I thought not.) We preen in front of the dressing room mirrors while gossiping behind closed doors.
While we are definitely called to take care of our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6), we are not called to make idols of them. Sin takes a good thing and makes it the only thing; at the same time, Christians tend to take a worldly thing and give it a spiritual spin.
For example, the premise of Daniel Fast is to eat just vegetables in order to lose weight; however, the actual reason Daniel chose to eat only vegetables was so as not to “defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV). As a result of following their convictions to remain pure, God gave them favor so that Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than their counterparts (Daniel 1:15 ESV).
What we see here and in other Scriptures is that being what we would call overweight or fat meant having enough food to eat during biblical times. Obviously overeating is considered gluttonous, but as in all things, balance is the key.
Another biblical principle concerning our physical bodies that often gets taken to extremes is the concept of athletic training. The apostle Paul often uses the importance of physical training to emphasize the importance of spiritual training. For instance, he talks about how only one person will win a race even though many people will train and participate in it. So, we are encouraged to run in such a way as to win. Of course, the point is to run our spiritual race in such a way as to win an “imperishable” wreath or crown (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Along with the extreme of doing our utmost to win the prize, what can happen when we idealize perfection too much? We put down those who can’t achieve it, and they somehow become less than. Instead of embracing all people and abilities as God’s unique creations, we revile them and leave them in our dust.
So our aim should be working to become more Christlike instead of focusing only on physical fitness:“while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).
Another aspect of physical training taken to the extreme is exhaustion. Behind the mask of achievement and success lies a tired body with multiple invisible problems. We go and go and go while neglecting the rest our bodies need because our culture sees rest as laziness. But God designed us with a need for regular rest! Our need to be always on the go leads to drive-thru dinners several times a week that do not provide our bodies with the nourishment they need.
What’s the cure? When we’re so worn out that we don’t know what to do, Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for his. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 ESV).
In the end, it’s all about balance! When we’re tired or hungry or on a sugar high, we can’t focus on God. Let’s take off our masks of physical perfection and busyness, so we can focus on our spiritual well-being and ask God what our priorities should be.
Call to Action:
Read and reflect on these passages of Scripture in light of this week’s sermon.
1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (ESV)—“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)—”Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)—”For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Hebrews 4:10 ESV)—“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you find yourself masking your spiritual state behind your physical state?
How have you taken a good thing and turned it into the only thing, which takes the focus off properly glorifying God with it?
How can you create more balance in your physical priorities this week?
How can you create more time for physical and spiritual rest in order to prioritize your relationships with God and your family?
*Note: This article was originally posted on my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sundays.
As we wrap up 2020 (who’s breathing a sigh of relief with me?), it’s a good time to reflect on our emotional health. One of the masks we women tend to don frequently is the mask of false happiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with faking it till you make it occasionally, but we’re not meant to live that way. We’re meant to live authentically, sharing our true selves with each other in community.
When we drop a bowl on the ceramic floor, and it shatters, what do we do with it? We toss it in the trash can, of course. When the Japanese break a piece of pottery, on the other hand, they repair it with gold (do they sell that kind of superglue in WalMart?) and proclaim that the piece is even more beautiful than it was originally. Their idea is that by embracing the brokenness and flaws, the piece becomes even stronger and more stunning. This is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” or kintsugi, which is “golden joinery.” Wow!
What if we treated people like that? What if we reframed our emotional scars—instead of judging ourselves as failing at the Christian life, how about we see our scars as battle wounds of winning warriors? What if we saw those made fragile by life’s circumstances and emotional upheavals as those who needed more care—not judgment and rejection?
Then, perhaps, we would be able to take off the masks of happiness and perfection that have become so a part of ourselves that we hardly recognize ourselves without them. With the rise in mental health issues and social media comparisons, we’ve all become quite adept at putting on a happy mask. But behind the mask of “fine” lies a multitude of “not fine.” Good news: God cares for the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
What if, instead of hiding behind the mask of our fake smiles denoting a nonexistent, perfectly happy life, we put our authentic selves on display? Scary thought, I know.
As noted by poet ee cummings, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”
But here’s the thing. The emotional connections and emotional health we all long for do not lie behind the mask of perfection. They lie in wide-open authenticity. In order to be truly loved, one must be fully known. The reverse is also true; in order to truly love others, we must fully know them.
The other side of emotional health is what we believe about ourselves, which is largely based on how we talk to ourselves. So often, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a struggling friend. Instead, we need to pretend the woman (or man) in the mirror is a good friend across the table at our favorite cafe.
What we think—about others and about ourselves—matters because “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV).
Instead of trash talking to and about ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and right and lovely. Instead of sowing discord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we need to reap the fruits of the Spirit by being as gentle and patient with ourselves as we are with treasured friends.
Remember what God says about us: we are his masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10)! Not practice pieces, not discarded, broken bowls. Masterpieces to be treasured!
When we can fully embrace God’s proclamation of value and worth about others and about ourselves, then our brokenness will become beautiful, and we would no longer feel the need to hide behind the mask of perfection and false happiness. We would embrace others and ourselves with the art of kintsugi.
Call to Action:
Pray and Reflect on the following passages in light of this week’s sermon:
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)—”But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)—”For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)—”And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Questions for Reflection:
What emotional masks have you been wearing lately and why?
How can you embrace your emotions in order to become more comfortable with them and then be willing to share them (judiciously) with others?
How can you make yourself a safe place for others to be their authentic selves?
Make a list of your characteristics and thank God for making you the way you are—a masterpiece.
*Note: This article was originally posted to my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sunday.
I’m pretty sure Mary did not have in mind to give birth to the Savior of the world in a dirty, dusty stable miles from home, but babies come when they are ready—or in this case, when God ordained that “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6 KJV). She obediently followed Joseph from Narareth—and the comforts of home and family—to Bethlehem to fulfill the census orders of Caesar Augustus.
As if the journey were not arduous enough, when the time came for her to give birth, the only place for her to lie down out of the elements was in a barn. I don’t know about y’all, but I had a hard enough time giving birth in a comfortable, sanitary hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses. Yet, Mary didn’t doubt God’s love for her, knowing that this birthing plan was all in God’s hands.
We need love now more than ever. Not only do we need it in the world around us, but we also need it within our hearts. Sure, we may know intellectually that God loves us, but how long has it been since that knowledge traveled the endless 18 inches to our hearts? Yeah, me, too.
Let’s celebrate some good news this week as we approach the end of 2020. The fourth week of advent celebrates love, and the angels’ candle commemorates the hope fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming and our continued hope in His second coming.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This is good news not just for 2,000 years ago, but through the ages. We see the evidence of God’s love for us from the wooden manger to the wooden cross, to the empty tomb, to the promise of the rapture of the saints. Only a sovereign, loving, and omniscient God could have planned and executed such a plan for redemption.
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.
That’s what God’s love for us looks like. Mary’s response? “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
What does love look like for us in this season? Sometimes it’s telling someone a hard truth. Sometimes it’s keeping our opinions to ourselves. Sometimes it’s wearing a mask when we’d rather not. Sometimes it’s letting our kids grow up and make their own decisions without making a big deal. It’s always sharing the grace and peace of the real Reason for the Season.
What does love look like for you this season, friend? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email. Catch up on the rest of the series:
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” What better news has ever been declared than this—that the Savior of the Lord has already come?
The shepherds were first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the coming of the Messiah. The angels, God’s glorious and special messengers, first announced to keepers of sheep that a King had been born?! I can kind of see Herod’s point about being left out of that revelation. Just sayin’.
But who better to be the first to hear about the One who came to save liars, cheaters, and the poor?
Of course they were overjoyed! King Jesus didn’t come to trade gold and gems with other dignitaries—the overbearing Roman rulers of the time. Instead, he came to mingle with the tax collectors and outcasts in order to bring salvation to people from all walks of life.
We don’t have to be good enough to get an invitation to meet this King. We don’t have to Cash App a donation, sign up to sell essential oils, or have an award-winning TikTok channel in order to be noticed by this King.
In fact, Scripture tells us numerous times that Jesus lowered himself to our level on purpose.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
That right there is enough to make me want to sing “Joy to the World” every day, not just one Sunday during December! In addition, throughout the Bible, we see example after example of other miracles God has done for His people. If you need a few reminders, check out Psalm 146.
Verse 3 of Psalm 46 reminds us not to put our trust in princes or in mortal men who cannot save us. This advent season, let us set aside the politics that so easily divide us and focus on the one, true King, the humble Messiah who will save us (from ourselves).
Instead, let us focus on our Savior with praise and joy. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us:
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Heavenly Father, please give us joy that lasts beyond the moment, beyond the holiday season, into the mundane, drab days of January and beyond.
Friend, what are you joyful about this week of Advent? Hit reply to send me an email, or drop me a line on social media to let me know!
When my kids were small, their father would take them to the mall (or WalMart) to buy me a gift for Christmas and my birthday, which are two days apart. They would be so excited to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree—almost as excited as they were about shaking and squeezing all the gifts with their own names attached.
A month, let alone a few weeks, was such a long time for little girls to wait! They would grow more excited and animated about those gifts under the tree every day until I thought they would burst from excitement!
Each day, more gifts would appear under the tree, building the anticipation even more. More Christmas cookies, more Christmas carols, and more Christmas parties fueled their frenzy.
Our custom used to be that we would each pick one small gift to open on Christmas Eve before heading off to bed. One year, my younger girl was so anxious for me to open the gift she had picked out for me, that she asked if I would please open “the umbrella-shaped gift”!
As with children (young and old!) at Christmas time, we, too, anxiously await the second return of Christ to bring us peace, right all the wrongs, and deliver us from the cares of this present world.
For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. Psalm 72:12
Even though the Israelites were longing for the promised Messiah, the Bethlehem of 2,000 years ago was not prepared for Jesus’ birth.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
We’re looking for a Savior, just as much as the Israelites were over 2,000 years ago. So how can we prepare for Jesus’ peace during Advent? We can do good things for those around us. We can love and care for those within our sphere of influence. And we can pray to be transformed more to His likeness.
But just like the flurry of preparations that take place during December, we also must prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. Lord, help us remember to prepare our hearts for your coming. Soften our hearts. Give us open hearts to receive the King.
Friend, what do you need to do to prepare your heart for the coming King this Advent season?
Many prophets foretold the coming, or advent, of the Messiah, and the Israelites pinned their hopes—their confident expectation for salvation—on the long-awaited Messiah. Isaiah 40 foretells the coming of a Messiah who will comfort His people and establish justice. The Messiah will display the power of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.
In this hope, the Israelites anticipated a time of amazing worship, and we can likewise worship Jesus while looking forward to His second coming (see Psalm 122).
When the Messiah arrived as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, many were shocked and did not believe that He could save Israel from their hardships—the oppression of the Romans (as Moses saved the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians thousands of years earlier, see Exodus 1-14).
For those looking for salvation from our current conditions (and who isn’t?) of pandemics, politics, and prejudice, our salvation might not look like what we think it should—just like the Jews of 2,000 years ago were sure the Messiah would arrive as a great and mighty King, not a tiny baby in a tiny town.
Today, we put our hope in the baby in the manger and our future hope in the second coming of the Messiah to save us from the oppressors of our current world.
While we don’t know the day or the hour, we do know that He will come to save us from the impending tribulation as foretold throughout the Scriptures “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
The Jews of Jesus’ day were hoping for salvation from the Romans. We Christians today are hoping that Jesus will bring judgment to right all the wrongs. Justice will prevail—if only at the final judgment.
We need to remember not to overlook the ordinary miracles and seemingly small moments of joy. In those things we will find our hope is truly a “steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).
What are you hoping for this Advent season? Please share with me, so I can pray with you!
Have you felt called to write a devotion or a devotional blog post, but you’re not sure where to start? How to Write a Devotion by my friend Melanie Chitwood is the perfect place to start. This concise, easy-to-follow book outlines five simple steps to writing a life-changing devotion! Melanie shows you everything from choosing a read-worthy topic to addressing your readers’ needs to finishing with a bang (or a prayer).
This is not just a book, but it’s also a workbook for us hands-on gals who like to make notes right in the text! It’s packed with examples and practical advice for helping you to get your devotion written now!
Melanie has written hundreds of devotions for Proverbs 31 Ministries as well as several books. She’s currently a writing coach and editor at Next Step Coaching Services. This book will give you the confidence you need to write and publish your devotion, so it’s ready for publication—whether you’re clicking “post” to your own blog or sending a devotional book proposal off to an agent or publisher.
Everything you need to confidently write your next devotion is in this 45-page book in five easy steps. Just add prayer and Scripture! I’m giving this wonderful resource a resounding thumbs up! Run over to her website and grab your copy today!
Forgiveness is good and necessary. But it is HARD!! And as an intangible idea, it’s difficult to navigate. It’s funny how hurtful words raged once can echo through the memory like a kid shouting in a tunnel, yet words of forgiveness whispered quietly on our knees need to be repeated to be remembered sometimes.
As a practical girl, I like tangible steps. Here are a few that I’ve found helpful:
Make time to get alone with God. You need to feel to heal,as contrary as it may seem! Feelings that are swept under the carpet do not heal. They multiply like the hair ties my cat hides under the rug.
Write a list of the offenses lurking in your heart – no matter how long ago they occurred – then out loud (and in writing) say, “Father, I choose to forgive (who) for (what) that happened on (when) at (where). Please help me to leave the offense here at the foot of the cross.”
Writing about your feelings is a great way to process them and then to release them. The purpose here is to trace the redemption that comes through the process of forgiving someone. After you’ve forgiven a particular offense, either rip the paper to shreds or put it in your fire pit. Or, you can write in “FORGIVEN” across that journal page as a reminder to set aside the hurt when it comes to mind.
Spoken words have power. Hearing ourselves forgive someone aloud and release the desire for revenge is much more powerful than just thinking about it.
Sometimes the grievances are so significant or held for so long that you may need to see a Christian counselor to help you work through them.
What do those steps look like in reality? Here’s a glimpse:
Not long ago, a friend lovingly confronted me about the fact that I still sounded bitter about events that had happened years ago. Things I thought I’d forgiven. Yes, they were hard things—like betrayal, deliberate financial ruin, character assassination—but I thought I was past them.
So, I spent some time alone with God. I made a list in my journal of all the grievances I could think of off the top of my head, all the people whose wounds still lingered in my mind. I allowed myself a short time to acknowledge the hurts.
Then I reminded myself that I am not responsible for their words and actions. God has seen my every tear and heard my every cry. In holding on to my own desire for revenge, I was trying to act like God. That’s not my job!
God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV
Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV
I prayed and told God that I wanted to forgive these people and these offenses, but that I needed help. I told God that I was so weary of carrying what I wasn’t meant to carry: the heavy burdens of unforgiveness, bitterness, and revenge.
The longer we try to carry that emotional baggage, the heavier it becomes. Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for His:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV
A few days later, I was blessed to witness more than 50 people get baptized in a river. To watch so many people publicly declare their faith and rejoice in Christ’s forgiveness was awesome and inspiring!
Afterwards, while I was standing on the riverbank watching kayakers and sticks float past me, and it occurred to me that this would be a perfect place to visibly watch my own bitterness float away.
I grabbed a handful of leaves and, one by one, audibly gave each leaf a name and an offense. Then I released each leaf to float down the river. Soon, I could not tell which leaf was which. After a few more minutes, none of the leaves I’d tossed into the river were visible.
While I was doing this, I prayed yet again for the Lord to help me release the burden of bitterness in my heart. After all my leaves and tears were gone, I felt a lightness and a joyfulness that I have not felt in many years.
Yes, I may still need reminders to myself that I have released that resentment, but that’s all they are: reminders that God can turn resentment into redemption. I tell myself that was then; this is now. I tamp down my desire to mete out a cold shoulder or a snide dig, and I take it to the Lord in prayer again.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Your process of forgiveness may look different and may take more or less time. That’s okay. How can I pray for you on your journey toward forgiveness today, friend?